Running with arthritis knee pain is actually possible, although many healthcare professionals are very quick to tell you that you can’t. What if you found out that running is actually good for your joints? Or that you don’t have to give up running because you have arthritic knees? Research has shown that running can help to rebuild cartilage and your joints need the ground reaction force in order to function properly! Running also helps to build lower body strength and stamina that are necessary for everyday life.
An all too common situation, how many of you can relate?:
You are out running and you start to feel moderate knee pain that doesn’t seem to go away, even if you try to ignore it.
You take a few days off and try to run again; the knee pain is back
After a month or two of rest. you try again and your knee pain is worse. You think to yourself, okay something must be wrong with my knee.
You go see a physician or a surgeon and they take an x-ray of your knee.
“You have signs of knee osteoarthritis” they say.
“Unfortunately you can no longer run because you have virtually no cartilage left. Stick to low impact activities like swimming and biking.”
You are left to walk out of the office with your head down because you LOVE running and now you can no longer do it for the rest of your life.
Raise your hand if you would be ecstatic if you found out you didn't have to give up running.
One of the biggest misconceptions around arthritis is that running is bad for arthritic joints. This is simply not true.
You are in fact able to run with knee arthritis.
I recently chatted with Brodie Sharpe, a physiotherapist based out of Melbourne, Australia who specializes in treating runners of all ages.
We had such an empowering conversation I wanted to make sure you knew these TOP 5 things that we talked about.
If you want to run but have been told you have a form of knee arthritis or are dealing with chronic knee pain, you won’t want to stop reading!
The good news!
Oftentimes we are told that “running causes further damage to our joints” and high impact activities are going to “make arthritis worse”.
But, contrary to popular belief, research has told us over and over again that running is beneficial to the cartilage of our joints.
Look at what this study found:
Running with knee arthritis pain can be tricky but we will be the first to tell you that it is possible.
I recently had a client who was diagnosed with knee arthritis and totally related to the situation described above. She was told she had to stop running and buy a recumbent bike for her home. She used running not only for physical health but mental health as well. She was so sad that she had to give it up.
She lost all hope and gained a hatred for the recumbent bike. She decided to search out some of her options and stumbled upon Keep the Adventure Alive.
We met and she was SO excited there was hope again. After dedication and commitment she is back out on the trails, feeling better than ever.
She believed it was possible and learned so much about her arthritis along the way. Turns out, she was believing all the wrong things. We want to clear these things up for you below!
5 Things you must know about running with arthritis knee pain
Here are the most important topics we discussed in the interview above. For more details, watch the full interview!
- Pain does not mean damage. Usually, when we experience pain, that signals in our brain that something is wrong. Pain is what triggers most people to stop running, especially when they are exhibiting other signs of arthritis like joint stiffness and instability. Discomfort and mild pain levels are actually okay when running and it doesn’t mean your joint is getting more damaged!
- Our joints need stress! If we only rely on low impact exercise like swimming and cycling, we could actually be doing our joints a disservice. Our cartilage can get weakened if we don’t put stress through our joints. The popular beliefs about arthritis make us think that the more we “rest” and the “less stress we put through our joints the better”. Following these thoughts are likely making your pain worse.
- Don’t forget about cross training. Adding in strength training exercises into your week can make or break your success in running with arthritis knee pain. Maintaining your leg strength can make running feel so much easier and enjoyable. The stronger your legs are, the more support your joints will feel. We agreed that the most important exercises are squats, step ups, single leg squats, single leg balance and hopping (wait, I can JUMP with arthritis, tell me more!).
- Be aware of your running volume. If you experience pain flares and swelling during or up to 48 hours after a run, this could be a sign that your joints aren’t happy with the amount you are running. They may be saying “hey, let’s maybe not run so much next week”. This is common when we have a sudden spike in how many miles we are running in a week, likely if you are training for a race or event. If you start having pain, it could simply be a volume issue!
- Take the time to learn. The hardest part about running with arthritis knee pain is weeding through all of the common myths that are out there. We have to keep moving, we have to keep exercising. If we stop, pain will likely get worse. Often we think that arthritis is caused by “wear and tear” thus making us think that movement is harming our joints. In reality, movement is doing the absolute opposite, our cartilage LOVES exercise (learn more about specific exercise benefits here).
Running is actually recommended if you have knee arthritis (if your body is ready for it ⚠️). In order to set yourself up for success, you have to make sure your mind and your joints are ready to take on the miles ahead.
If you want to know exactly how to build the foundational strength you need, my signature membership, Adventurers for Life can prepare you for higher impact activities like running.
In fact, one of the members just began jogging again: