Sports Therapy Corner: The Beneficial Effects of Running on Your Joints

Dr. Suzanne Bober is a chiropractor with a Fellowship designation in Physical and Occupational Rehabilitation. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Human Kinetics and Biomedical Science from the University of Guelph, and her Doctor of Chiropractic degree from National College of Chiropractic in Chicago. Currently she is a part-time faculty member of the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College.

An avid runner herself, Dr. Bober is passionate about educating and helping other runners to overcome injury. Her practice focuses on both pain relief and injury prevention with a high number of patients active in running, cycling and triathlons. Their chiropractic care helps them to attain their personal fitness goals by relieving their pain and helping them to prevent re-injury from occurring. Sports Therapy Corner is a regular feature of

Does the high-impact of exercise such as running cause damage to my joints? Do runners develop arthritis sooner than non-runners? These are questions that I am asked frequently.

The truth is, if you are using proper form during your high-impact activity, including running, then your joints will usually benefit from this type of exercise. Bone is a dynamic structure that is constantly being remodelled by specialized cells in the body, whereby old bone cells are constantly being replaced by new bone cells. Bone tissue requires stress to be placed upon it in order to increase its mineral density and thus strength. This is known as Wolf’s Law, and it is vital to preventing osteoporosis and fractures through maintaining adequate bone mineral content. The stress placed on the bones and joints during high-impact activity therefore builds bone strength.

Another benefit of such exercise is maintaining adequate nutrition of the cartilage that lines the ends of bones at a joint, and thus cushions it. Cartilage is avascular, and therefore receives its blood supply through compression and movement. A joint that lacks both compression and movement loses hydration and degenerates more quickly than a healthy, mobile joint. These stiff joints become more stiff as time goes on and the body compensates, and start to form bony spurs along their joint margins. Analogous to a rusty door hinge, these joints become arthritic. High-impact activity keeps the joints hydrated, mobile and the bones strong.

Attaining proper form during running is crucially important in order to reap these benefits. I speak at great lengths about the significance of building a strong core in order to protect the spine from injury. This will also improve your efficiency, which will empower you to run for longer periods without succumbing to fatigue. As your core becomes more stable, you will become less vulnerable to the wear and tear of your muscles and thus be at lesser risk of developing injuries.

So, with an optimally strong core, there are several benefits to your joints during high-impact activity. Not only will you give your cardiovascular system a workout, you may actually improve the health of your joints.

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