Running with arthritis: Do’s and don’ts to manage pain

Running with arthritis may strain your joints and cause more discomfort, if not done right. Here are some tips from an orthopaedic!
Woman running
Running with arthritis should be a safe activity. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Team Health Shots Updated: 17 Oct 2023, 18:32 pm IST
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Running is good for health! But when it comes to certain bone and joint-related conditions such as arthritis, it is best to exercise caution. You may not want to either run too fast or too long or you will end up exacerbating your joint pains. If your daily workout includes running with arthritis, an orthopaedic wants you to know the do’s and don’ts for safety.

What is arthritis?

Experiencing joint pain, stiffness and inflammation is a common complaint among individuals, often indicating the presence of arthritis. Arthritis encompasses various disorders such as gout, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and the most prevalent type, osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, can affect people of all ages, but is more commonly observed in older individuals due to joint wear and tear and inadequate care. The condition primarily affects the elbows, hips, and knees, progressively worsening over time and hindering everyday activities.

Given the circumstances, it is understandable for individuals to question what activities they can or cannot engage in with arthritis. One frequently asked question is whether it is okay to run with arthritis or workout with arthritis at all!

Dr Rajesh Kumar Verma, Consultant – Orthopaedics, Manipal Hospital, Ghaziabad, says the answer is YES! “It is generally acceptable to be running with arthritis. However, certain guidelines should be followed,” adds the expert.

Arthritis may cause knee or hip pain
Don’t stop exercising due to arthritis. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Tips for running with arthritis

Dr Verma has outlined key do’s and don’ts people should follow when they want to run with a pre-existing arthritis condition.

Do’s to run with arthritis

* Consult a doctor: Each individual has different levels of damage to the joints, and because of this, their range of symptoms may vary. Before starting a running routine, taking advice from a doctor who knows the patient’s condition well can help with a plan to prevent risks and injuries.

* Start slowly: Begin with a proper warm-up and gradually start with walking, then increase the duration and intensity of the runs. Allow the body some time to adapt to the impact and stress on the joints.

* Choose suitable footwear: Invest in well-cushioned running shoes that provide adequate support and shock absorption, and shock absorption knee pads for support.

* Stay attentive to any pain: Pay attention to any pain or discomfort during and after running. If the joint pain, swelling, or stiffness increases, take a break and modify the activity to lower-impact exercises.

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* Take adequate rest and do flexibility exercises: Rest is important for muscles to recover and gain strength. It is a good idea to do flexibility stretches to relieve joint stiffness after running.

Also read: Ease arthritis pain with weight loss: 4 exercises that can help

Stretching exercises for arthritis pain
Keep your body flexible. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

Don’ts of running with arthritis

* Overdo it: Avoid overexerting and pushing through pain. Running or exercising with pain can make the inflammation even worse and more lasting.

* Neglect recovery: Allow your body ample time to rest and recover between running sessions. This helps prevent overuse injuries and gives joints the opportunity to heal and recover.

* Run on uneven or hard surfaces: Run on softer surfaces like grass, tracks, or muddy ground with proper cushioning. Avoid running on concrete or other hard surfaces that can increase the impact on your joints.

* Ignore joint pain or swelling: If running consistently causes significant pain, swelling, or joint instability, then one must switch to milder forms of exercise such as swimming and yoga. This will help them stay active without causing damage to their joints.

Pro tip for runners

Keep in mind that each person’s experience with running and arthritis is unique and depends on a variety of circumstances, including the severity of the condition and specific symptoms. Always seek personalised advice and direction from a doctor before starting any exercise regimen.

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