The definition of osteoarthritis according to the Oxford dictionary is “degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone, most common from middle age onward.” Though I’m sure all of us are familiar with the term arthritis, and either have or know someone who has arthritis, it’s not as straight forward of a diagnosis as many of us might think.
One of the biggest misconceptions of osteoarthritis is that “wear and tear” through high levels of exercise and activity directly cause it to occur over time. But studies of runners, weight lifters, and other groups of athletes have shown that high levels of exercise over years and decades doesn’t mean you’re destined to having arthritis or joint pains later in life. In fact, many of these athletes have lower rates of arthritis and joint pains compared to the rest of the population. The exception to this is athletes who sustain a serious joint injury and/or end up requiring surgery, these people do tend to develop arthritis in that joint at a faster rate in that joint.
Why some people get arthritis and others don’t is still partially a mystery, and there’s no exact formula to figure out why some suffer from arthritis earlier in life, whereas others can reach the ripe old age of 80 and have no joint pains. But there are a few things that we do know can contribute to the development of arthritis:
1. Family history
3. Previous joint injury
4. Previous joint surgery
5. Repeated cortisone injections into a single joint
7. Sedentary lifestyle
So before you get worried about your workouts causing joint damage later in life, don’t. There are plenty of lifelong exercisers who have healthy joints and healthy bodies and live very active, pain-free, and independent lifestyles. The things you should consider are the risk factors above. Just try to control what you can if you’re looking to avoid or minimize your risk of developing osteoarthritis as you age.
In good health,
Dr. Ashley Bertorelli, PT, DPT, Founder/Owner of The Green Room PT