Good news. Running with arthritis is no longer a no-go. It may even help.
Despite popular wisdom, running may not put you at greater risk for osteoarthritis (OA) of the hips and knees. In fact, studies over time have shown that running can mitigate and even protect against degeneration of the load-bearing joints. Among the specific ways that running is thought to help is the regular release of the body’s anti-inflammatory substances, greater supply of synovial fluid to joints, and less strain on joints thanks to reduced weight.
A recent study in a paper cited in Runners World and published in Arthritis Care & Research draws from both runners and non-runners, and finds that those who reported running regularly at some point in their lives were less likely to report knee pain. X-rays of their knees showed less incidence of OA. The theory here is that knees are meant to be used, and more activity, rather than less, may help prevent degeneration.
So if you’re someone who needs to run (like a few of us here at Össur), take it slowly, listen to your body, and use your pain as a signal to back off. OA patients often live with constant pain. Take note of your baseline pain, and when you exceed it, dial back. Also, run on a more forgiving surface such as grass, a track, or a treadmill. And lastly, pay attention to any new pains. The Arthritis Foundation notes that something other than OA pain could be exacerbating your condition. In this case, consult your doctor.
Okay, are you ready to run? Here are some guidelines for getting started.
Make a Training Plan
You don’t need to go all-out. Choose a reasonable training plan that involves two-to-three training sessions a week for thirty minutes. Don’t worry about speed. Some studies have shown that a slower pace may actually be of greater overall benefit to your body than a faster one. You might also try The Run-Walk Method in which you intersperse your run with a minute or two of walking at regular intervals. The walk breaks help reduce injury and soreness by allowing your body to recover even as you exercise. Not to mention, they can provide a much-needed mental breather during a hard workout.
Choose the Right Shoe
Running doesn’t require much gear. Really, it all comes down to a comfortable shoe. Forget fancy brand names and cool advertising. According to The New York Times, recent research has shown that what matters most in a shoe is how it feels. To find the shoe that’s best for you, try on four or five pairs, take a few laps around the store, and choose the one that best suits your foot.
Your choice of sock is similarly simple. You want a sock that is snug but not suffocating. A popular sock in Singapore, designed for sweltering weather, is the Drymax Hot Weather Run Mini Crew. Its breathable mesh and vented arch band ventilate and release heat.
Think of the muscles that run from your hips to your toes as one long assembly line designed to protect our knees. Stretching after a workout will help them loosen and bring pain relief. When stretching, focus on your hips, quads, and hamstrings. Hold poses for thirty seconds to a minute.
Pick a Race
Lastly, and just for fun, spice things up with a race. Here in Singapore, running events for all levels take place most weekends. A scheduled race will help you stay focused and give you something to train for.