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Will running mean I'll need a hip replacement sooner?

Q) I've been told after 17 years of hip pain I have arthritis. I have a torn labrum (the ring of cartilage that lines the hip socket), which doctors won't repair. I'll need a double hip replacement in the future but at 39 I'm too young.

I want to go out running but not sure what to do?.
Michelle, via email (Spring 2015)

A) The question here is whether running will make you need hip replacements sooner, and whether the the health benefits of exercise outweigh this.

Our joints and bones need some load passing through them for them to remain healthy. The cartilage lining our joints responds to this load, and weight-bearing exercise keeps our bones strong and healthy. Our joints aren't machine parts that just wear out. There's a constant process of wear and repair happening in all our joints, so running in itself shouldn't be seen as harmful.

That said, some simple principles apply:

  • Make sure to warm up and warm down properly.
  • Start off with short runs and build up gradually to longer distances. A useful rule of thumb to avoid injury is to increase your distance by around 10% each week to let your joints become used to the training load.
  • It's worth going to a proper running shop to get trainers that help correct any issues you have with your foot position.
  • Consider doing some core stability work to give you the stable platform of core fitness you need to avoid injury.

Some aches and pains are normal after exercise, but if you experience sharp pains during running that don't settle quickly, ease off the running for a few days or consider lower impact exercise like cycling for a bit.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Spring 2015 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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