Does Running Really Damage your Joints?
By Donal Ahern
“How did you not see this coming? Everyone knows running is bad for your joints!”
At some point in our lives, whether we exercise or not, nearly everyone has heard some variation on the idea that running and healthy joints just can’t co-exist peacefully. Ask your workmates. Ask your family. Ask Google! The common sense consensus – that the extra stress running places on your joints must speed up the wear and tear process – has been widespread, and often well accepted. Like the tyres of a car, it makes sense that our joints just gradually wear away under the strain, right?
And of course that would make sense, if we could compare our bodies to a car. Luckily for fans of running, our bodies don’t behave like cars. We’re far too clever for that. Think of your body (and joints) as less like a car, and more like an ecosystem, where lots of different factors influence how healthy and pain-free they will be. Most importantly, ecosystems adapt to change.
With this in mind, it makes sense that more and more studies are showing that running doesn’t harm your joints. This is most likely because runners tend to weigh less, and because our joints have an incredible ability to adapt to new challenges. It is now widely accepted in healthcare circles that regular running not only doesn’t do damage to healthy people’s joints, but most likely plays a protective role, in many recent studies actually reducing your risk of developing Osteoarthritis. Running (and other forms of regular exercise) also reduces the risk of countless other systemic problems like heart, brain and bone disease.
That doesn’t mean that runners never pick up injuries. However, many running injuries are preventable with good habits and advice. Training consistently, strength training, and maybe even varying your running style can all help solve those niggling “overuse” injuries that can put people off running or set your training back.
If you do get sore while running, or you’re concerned that an injury might develop if you start, make sure you see a Physiotherapist or Podiatrist at Pinnacle Health Group. We can give you sensible, simple and the most up-to-date advice on reducing injury risk, allowing you to succeed in whatever training goals you have – and enjoy the journey along the way.
Donal Ahern is a Physiotherapist at our Docklands Clinic.