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What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a painful degenerative condition that commonly affects weight-bearing joints such as the hips and knees. It can be especially debilitating for runners. The bones in our joints are protected by a smooth cartilage lining which absorbs shock and allow friction-free gliding of the joints during normal movement. Damage occurs to this cartilage, eventually causing 'wear and tear', until the bony joint surfaces are left exposed. Painful bony growths can develop as the body tries to protect the damaged joints.

What causes osteoarthritis?

Cartilage is able to withstand large compressive forces, however as we age (above about 30 years) it loses some of its hydration and with it, its ability to withstand shock forces, resulting in damage. Other causes of osteoarthritis in runners include:
  • Abnormal postures or running mechanics
  • Previous injury to joints
  • Poor choice of footwear
  • Rapid increases in training loads/distances/frequency
No direct correlation exists between running and development of osteoarthritis and many individuals can run for years without experiencing osteoarthritis related pain. In fact it has proven that consistent runners are less likely to suffer from OA than the general population. However, some runners suffer with osteoarthritis at a young age. This is often explained by biomechanical abnormalities resulting in uneven or inconsistent force distribution through the joints.

Hip strengthening exercises to stabilise joint and reduce pressures exerted on the bone surfacesAbove: Hip strengthening exercises to stabilise joint and reduce pressures exerted on the bone surfaces

Symptoms of osteoarthritis?

Pain and reduced movement are the major symptoms of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis can also manifest with several of the following symptoms:

Biomechanical assessment for causes of osteoarthritis in runners

Postural abnormalities or altered running mechanics can result in abnormal peak pressures being applied to joint cartilage, causing damage to the joint cartilage. Biomechanical abnormalities can result from factors such as muscle imbalance and poor technique. Common biomechanical abnormalities that may lead to osteoarthritis in runners include:
  • Excessive/insufficient spinal curvature
  • Posteriorly/anteriorly tilted pelvis
  • Poor hip muscle control during running
  • Knee valgus/varus postures (inward/outward bending of the knees)
  • Fallen arches/overpronation (inward rolling) of the feet
Physio.co.uk offers video gait analysis of your running mechanics by highly-skilled physiotherapists. This allows for identification likely biomechanical causes of your joint pain. Moreover, our therapists will provide you with the advice and treatment programme you require to correct these biomechanics and help prevent development of osteoarthritis.

To arrange a biomechanical running assessment with one of the specialist physiotherapists, please call Physio.co.uk on 0330 088 7800 today. You can also book appointments online using our online booking system

Call us on: 0330 088 7800
Phone: 0330 088 7800
Call us on: 0330 088 7800
Mobile: 0330 088 7800
Email us on: office@physio.co.uk
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