Have you tried increasing your running lately, only to be frustrated by the fact that you have vague knee pain and that your knees keep swelling up? It’s most likely signs of general wear and tear through the joint. We have 2 types of cartilage in the knee;
- Articular cartilage, which lines the end of bones in a joint.
- Meniscus – which is unique to the knee joint and is designed to help absorb shock as we move about and run.
We are born with cartilage that looks like a brand new dance floor: clean, smooth and shiny. As you get degenerative changes, the surface starts to look like a cobble stone road: messy, rough and tarnished.
Over time, your cartilage cops wear and tear, particularly if you have loved high impact sports and lots of running in your life. Osteoarthritis is simply these degenerative changes. Like you can’t make an old T-shirt look new, these changes in the knee cannot be reversed. And, much to your surprise, even though osteoarthritis is riddled in our population… we…. don’t…. yet… have…a…cure. There is so much in medicine we just don’t know, and this one on osteoarthritis is one of the biggest enigma’s in medicine that is still remaining.
Currently the only curative treatment is a total knee replacement, of which the lifespan is about 20 years in Australia. Whilst you can achieve relatively normal function, you can’t place them under large stresses such as running because the replacement will fail.
There are a number of non-surgical options that are currently being trialled (steroid injections, hyaluronic acid injections, stem cell therapy, etc). Unfortunately all have failed to show any benefit over placebo.
The current best advice for anyone in the early stages of osteoarthritis is to lose weight and restore good muscle strength to prevent the worsening of the disease.
You will be pleased to know that there have been some recent, large clinical trials looking at the effects of running with osteoarthritis. Running isn’t a complete no, no. In fact doing some running, in moderation, keeps your bones really healthy and strong!