Healthspan December 20, 2017

When it comes to staying in shape, nothing beats running for a quick and easy way to get your heart racing, blood pumping, and body moving. You don’t even need a gym membership – any park or street circuit will do. But despite the many benefits of running, it’s not uncommon for people to suffer injuries and discomfort in their joints.

What is runner’s knee?

It’s not unusual for runners to experience knee pain when running, a pain on the inside of their knee, or to complain that their knees burn when running. Collectively, issues around the knee are known as ‘runner’s knee’.

Preventing knee pain caused by running

Runner’s knee is far from an inevitability. Likewise, smaller, every day strains don’t have to be a by-product of your run. By protecting the knees with stretches before a run, and strengthening exercises on rest days, you can build a body adept at dealing with such issues.

Supplements, too, may help. In particular, both glucosamine and chondroitin have been widely discussed in relation to joint health.

Glucosamine is an amino sugar vital for the synthesis of proteins and protective fats, or ‘lipids’, in the body. This can benefit people who exercise as protein helps muscles to recover, while fats provide energy and lubrication – especially in the joints.

Chondroitin, meanwhile, forms a crucial part of cartilage and in particular helps to cushion joints against compression, such as what happens when your bodyweight lands on a single knee each time you put a different foot forward while pushing for that new PB.

Research supporting glucosamine and chondroitin

There is on-going evidence as to the effectiveness of both glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health.

A study published in The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that patients suffering with knee pain noted a 28% improvement in their condition when given glucosamine. Furthermore, an updated study by the same authors noted that “that glucosamine was superior to placebo in the treatment of pain and functional impairment resulting from symptomatic OA [osteoarthritis]”.

Furthermore, a study published in The Lancet, gave 106 patients with progressive knee issues a placebo for three years, and another control group glucosamine. Not only did the glucosamine group show less sign of wear and tear, the symptoms actually worsened in the placebo group.

Focusing on chondroitin, a review by the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases published in the BMJ found that chondroitin not only reduces inflammation, but prevents the build up of harmful compounds in the knee joint, which would otherwise work to deteriorate the bone and surrounding tissues.

While neither chondroitin or glucosamine have been completely and thoroughly tested, the evidence available to us at present has overwhelmingly positive implications. And their full effects may not yet be completely understood or appreciated.

There is stronger evidence to support other supplements’ ability to help with joint pain, including boswellia, calcium, and vitamins C and D.

  • Boswellia is a natural, plant-based, compound proven to reduce inflammatory and prevent osteoarthritis, according to a study review by examine.com
  • Calcium helps to strengthen bones to prevent injury
  • A 2004 British study found that people with diets low in vitamin C were 300% more likely to develop arthritis than those who regularly consumed up to 75mg per day (women) and 90 mg per day (men)
  • Vitamin D also helps to regulate phosphorus levels, for better bone and joint health

There are now premium formulations available that contain all of these ingredients. Some boast up to 100% of your recommended daily intake of glucosamine and also include turmeric extract – a superfood proven to reduce joint inflammation.

Taking a supplement containing these nutrients and doing additional exercise outside of running, may help strengthen both joints and bones, while helping put that finish line in your sights.

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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