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How To Run With Arthritis

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com

After suffering searing knee pain after simply walking across the street, I decided I should ask a professional what was causing it. As you may have guessed from the headline, it was an arthritic flare up. My doc suggested I’d be running 6 miles a day in a month and suggested the pain would be a distant memory. But in the meantime, what do I do? And is there anything I can do to keep my 45-year-old knees happy? Here are the top tips from my doctor and physical therapist:

1. Keep Running. Research doesn’t show that not running helps and clearly shows that staying active is a good thing, so my doc said to keep running and cycling and swimming. It’s good to alternate some aerobic activities that take the pressure off your knees, and all this exercise helps prevent weight gain—which is especially bad for arthritis.

2. Do Weight-Bearing Exercise. When I asked my PT what we’d do for my knee, she said the best treatment is weight-bearing exercise. A lesson on how to properly do a squat followed, and soon I was doing a couple of sets leaning on a ball against a wall with 15-pound weights in each hand.

3. Compression. This is legit! Whether you wear compression pants or a sleeve on your knee, the pressure really helps keep everything in place.

4. Ice. Putting an ice pack on my knees after a run or other exercise can help treat inflammation and ward off swelling.

5. Glucosamine. This wasn’t the first time a doc told me I had arthritis. After a dedicated stint with Insanity a few years ago, my wrists were killing me. But after I switched up my exercises, the pain subsided. That doctor had mentioned the benefits of glucosamine, but I wasn’t ready to admit that I had arthritis enough to take a pill. Now that the a-word is affecting my running, it’s a different story.

6. Turmeric and Other Foods. Including anti-inflammatories in your diet can be as easy as spicing up a smoothie with a product like Gaia TurmericBoost Uplift.

7. Physical Therapy. Full disclosure: I started PT for my Achilles and then the arthritis was an add-on, so I had a jumpstart on some form exercises. For example, I’ve definitely noticed the impact of hip-strengthening exercises—they’ve helped keep my knees bending in the right direction, so all this PT is good for everything that ails me and my form.

8. Ibuprofen or Naproxen Sodium. When I told others about my diagnosis, they asked if I could take a pill. Frankly, my doc didn’t even bring it up as one of the things she’d recommend until I asked. So I mention it last. There are other medical options as arthritis progresses, but mine is in the early stages. My doctor talked about many patients running with arthritis much worse than mine and how beneficial it is. Having just gone through a few weeks when I couldn’t run, I can see that it’s better for the body and mind!

If you suffer from arthritis and have other tips, tweet @nickiontherun and @womensrunning and share!

Nicki Miller

Nicki Miller

Nicki Miller is the managing editor for Women's Running and spearheads our nutrition coverage. She’s an avid runner but also loves cycling (both on and off-road), yoga and all kinds of crazy videos to do at home. Formerly the editor of Martha’s Vineyard Magazine, Nicki started her journalism career at The Washington Post. Her first races were duathlons (run, bike, run) in her twenties with her husband, and then triathlons, completing the White Lake Half Ironman in North Carolina. Since joining Women’s Running in 2013, she’s been more focused on half marathons and trail running. Some of her proudest moments have been running the Boston Marathon (first 26.2), and becoming an RRCA certified running coach and helping others take up the sport.