With the Melbourne Marathon been and run we have seen a number of clients reporting joint pain that they believe is due to their running program. The question we have been asked a number of times this week is, Is running bad for my joints?”
A simple and straight forward question with not so much of a simple answer. In short, the answer is NO…but depends ( our lawyers made us put that last bit in there)
Too often we all want a black and white answer when it comes to pain. Unfortunately when it comes to our bodies, health, and fitness 1+1 does not always equal 2. And there are a number of various factors at play. We are going to try and simplify this as much as possible.
Arthritis and Joint Pain.
This is what we are all worried about. The number one question and worry. If I run too much I’ll get arthritis!. The only people to blame for your arthritis is maybe your parents – for some, it’s a genetic problem? The truth is, that not everybody who undertakes a running program is doomed to get arthritis. We know that weight-bearing exercise, such as running, helps prevent osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Repetitive weight-bearing and motion are GOOD for the joints, and running essentially does that. Certainly, if you already have pre-existing problems, such as cartilage damage ( in your knee or hip) bone on bone rubbing – the repetitious nature of running with load will cause more aggravation and pain and running probably isn’t for you. But to simply NOT run because you are worried it will wear your joints out – just simply isn’t the case.
Its all about where you start from:
Deciding to undertake a running program is fantastic. But getting up off the couch and trying to run 10km in your first session is setting yourself up to fail. We often see injuries occur because the load has been too much for the body to endure and it breaks down. Achilles Tendonitis, Plantar fasciitis, hip and back pain are all common complaints in this scenario. So maybe start by walking regularly and then ease into your running program. Listening to your body is also essential, If you start to develop pain with an increase from 5-7km.. maybe 5km maybe your threshold. Checkout “Couch to 5km” which is a great online resource.
Biomechanics and Joint Pain
Here is the “nerdy” component of our article. Your biomechanics – the way in which your foot strikes the ground. It’s all about efficiency and reducing the amount of force that your body imparts on the ground is essential. Aspect to consider is maybe increasing your Cadence” that is the number of steps you take per minute. If you can hit somewhere around the 180 steps per minute – you will significantly reduce the amount of ground reaction force. Simple ways to do this is to reduce y9our stride length, and increase the speed of your legs – so essential quicker shorter steps. Not everybody hits the ground with the same relative amount of force: Some people walk softly, and some sound much louder walking by. For those people who hit heavier, that extra force is an issue.
Another important factor. Your shoes are like the tires on your car. They will allow you to maximize the performance of your body. Make sure your shoes fit properly, give you the support you require and are comfortable.
If you’re having trouble with your body and have just started a running program, you may need a little extra help. The Osteopaths at Equilibrium Sports and Spinal Clinic in Glen Iris are always happy to help you achieve your health and wellbeing goals. Let us guide you to a stronger body without pain, so you can enjoy your running for longer without the niggles’ aches and joint pain.