I have a family history of osteoarthritis, particularly in the knees. I began running recently and I’m wondering if I’m doing myself any harm. For many years my knees have popped and cracked, but they only hurt if I put a lot of weight on them, as I might when climbing a steep trail. They do not bother me when I run. If I am destined to have osteoarthritis, am I making it worse by running? I don’t run more than 10-15 miles per week.–Corey Corey, This is a great question and one that probably generates many conflicting answers. Running at a recreational level, away from steep climbs and ascents, should not cause any problems for your knees. Pops and crackles that are not associated with pain or loss of joint motion are just pops and crackles–they have little medical significance. There does seem to be a familial tendency to develop osteoarthritis, but there are no guarantees either way. You may end up with OA of the knees or you may not; running at your level will most likely not be the cause. Osteoarthritis is a non-inflammatory deterioration of the articular cartilage of the knee. The articular cartilage does not have a blood supply that courses through the full depth of the structure and the cartilage depends upon the sponging effect of weight bearing to get some of its nutrition. Running may help this process and three to five miles, three to five times a week could actually be a benefit and help ward off early onset of OA. There are studies of mice and men (and women) that show equal or less OA of the knees in runners compared to sedentary people. If you become symptomatic with running, you might consider changing to another activity or limiting your running to within the pain-free range. While it is hard to top the ease and convenience of running, the health benefit of any activity that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe hard for 30 to 40 minutes three or more times a week will give you the same health benefits as running. There are even great health benefits from casual or conversational walking. So keep running as long as you can and keep active for a life time. Hope this helps. Cheers, Bill Have a question for the Sports Doc? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org . NOTE: Due to the volume of mail, we regret that Dr. Roberts cannot answer every e-mail.
I am a 41-year-old man. I've been running for more than 30 years. An MRI recently confirmed that the tightness and burning in my left glute and hamstring, and my lower back stiffness, are bulges and tears with the L4/5 and L5-S1 discs. I just had a steroidal injection, which reduced my pain by 50 to 60 percent. My question is this: Do you believe that long-distance running has caused my disc issues? I tend to think that my disc problems are the result of age and the bad posture, poor lifting, and the occasional incident (like a wave-rider mishap 10 years ago), but some health professionals are discouraging my running, as though it is definitely the culprit. What do you think? Thanks–Chris Chris, It sure is easy to blame things on running, but there is little data to support the contention that running causes disc disease or hastens its progression beyond an individual’s genetic predisposition. Sports that I consider high risk for disk injury include rowing, football, wrestling, hockey, gymnastics, tennis, and golf; all share some or many of the common mechanisms of herniation-flexion, rotation, and compression of the spine. In straight-ahead running on the roads or the track, the compressive loads are probably minimal compared to the forces that occur in the lumbar spine of a football interior lineman (or woman). So to answer your question, I would say that it is slightly possible that your running caused your disc problems and quite possible that running can make your pain worse at times. I tend to side with your assessment that genetics, bad posture, poor core strength, improper lifting, and the incidental incidents like the “wave rider” crash did more to damage the discs. Herniated discs usually take 6-12 months to “heal” and during that time it is important to stay fit with walking or any activity that does not flair your pain. You should look at your core strength and do simple strengthening activities like forward, side, and back bridges to help support your spine. Fredericson and Moore have a nice article on core stabilization here . I would also recommend that you find a provider who works with athletes and is skilled in manual therapy to assess your pelvis and low back. If the pelvis is rotated, you can get pain in the buttocks, groin, and hamstring that is similar to radicular disc pain. With time and strengthening, you should be able to get back to running, but it will be a long term project. I hope this helps. Cheers, Bill Have a question for the Sports Doc? E-mail him at email@example.com . NOTE: Due to the volume of mail, we regret that Dr. Roberts cannot answer every e-mail.
Tuesday night was the Paul O’Connell memorial 8K road race in the Dublin Docklands. It’s a nice easy course with a good crowd for support and one of the few opportunities to run through the city.
For those who don’t know each year members of the club travel to Lanzarote for a week to take part in the International running challenge which takes place at Club La Santa over four days from November 22nd. As one of the club La Santa newbie’s I was elected to write the report. Travelling on Friday the 20th this year we had plenty of time to get acclimatised before the first run on Sunday. Club La Santa offers more than 30 sports facilities, which enable you to practice almost any kind of sports. The roads that surround the resort are excellent for runners and cyclists with almost zero traffic and lots of choice of terrain. With the first race only a few hours away we spent Saturday lounging around the pool, doing a slow 10K loop around La Santa to get familiar with the terrain, the pre race weigh in and then the annual Sportsworld crazy golf competition, which Susan McDonnell won with ease. Mr Iron man himself Ed McEntee arrived (as an aside as well as racing four times Ed did a mini-tri and duathlon on race days and performed excellently in both) on Saturday evening and over dinner Ed suggested we do 2K on the track each morning at 7am to warm up for the races. At 7 am on Sunday morning the ritual began. Five pale Irish men running laps and strides around the La Santa track before breakfast to get the system going. Ed’s words of advice clearly worked as a great weeks racing was in store. As there is so much to cover it’s not possible to mention everything that happened in the races. I’ve included my perspective on each [...]