Are you a fan of running? Heading out for a jog or spending time on the running machine can be a great way to help you lose weight and stay fit. However, for those struggling with arthritis and joint pain, it can be a very painful exercise.
However, while running can result in an increase in joint pain, it is important to know that it does not cause arthritis. Research has shown that those individuals who regularly ran over a four-year period did not experience any increase in their symptoms or the severity of arthritis. In fact, this study found that for many runners, the pain in their knees actually eased. This research was supported further by an additional long-term study that reviewed two groups of individuals over an 18 year period.
What causes joint pain when running?
Running can cause discomfort and pain in a range of areas in the body, but it is most commonly in the knee, often nicknamed “Runner’s Knee”. There are many reasons why running can cause issues with your joints, but some of the most common include:
One of the most common causes of joint pain is overusing them. Continuously bending your knee or repeating high-stress exercises can result in irritation around the joints, causing inflammation and increasing discomfort.
An impact on one of your joints can also cause significant pain when running. The most common cause of impact to your joints is from a fall.
3) Bone misalignment
Occasionally, misalignment between bones can cause irritation and inflammation, particularly if this is around the hips, ankles, or knees. When your bones are misaligned, either through injury or natural growth, it means the movement is not smooth and causes significant discomfort.
4) Feet issues
Another very common reason for joint pain when running is related to issues with your feet. Conditions such as overpronation or fallen arches can affect the way you walk and run, placing more stress on your knee joints and increasing the risk of discomfort and inflammation.
5) Weak thighs
Our thighs play a vital role in supporting our legs and kneecaps when running. Conditions that could cause your muscles to deteriorate or weaken will mean your kneecap is not supported in position, resulting in pain and inflammation.
Whatever the cause might be, if you notice pain in your joints and muscles when running, then you should speak to your doctor to find out more.
Top tips for running with arthritis
If you find that joint pain is preventing you from running as regularly or as far as you would like, it can be incredibly frustrating. Thankfully, there are ways to help you reduce the discomfort and inflammation you are experiencing, including:
If you are new to running, then the first thing to do is to take your time and start slow. Going too far and too quickly will only place unnecessary pressure on your joints. You need to give your muscles, ligaments, and joints time to strengthen and adapt to the impact, so taking your time to build up will keep you in the best condition.
This is particularly true for older people, as it can take a little longer for your joints to adapt and improve. For those with arthritis, this period of adaptation can take even longer, but following a regular plan and slowly building up will ensure that it does not hinder your fitness.
Focus on strength training
The stronger your leg muscles are, the less impact and force that goes through your joints when you move. This not only relates to running, but walking, climbing stairs, and a whole range of daily activities.
That is why you should spend some time focusing on strength training. Light weight workouts that focus on your quads, hamstrings, calves, and glutes will help to reduce the pain and inflammation caused by running.
Shorten your runs
If your osteoarthritis is causing you severe pain and preventing you from running as far or as long as you used to, then do not be ashamed to reduce your distance. Arthritis can impact the overall structure of your knee joint, which means you might not be able to continue at the same volume that you did when you were younger.
That is why you should listen to your body and what it is telling you, responding accordingly to ensure you can maintain your fitness and health.
Give yourself time to recover
No matter how strong your legs might be and how high your fitness levels are, every runner needs to give themselves time to rest and recover. The younger you are, the shorter the period of recovery is, but you need to ensure that you are giving your body the time to rest and repair itself; otherwise, you will only cause yourself more discomfort.
Incorporate other exercises
When it comes to fitness, focusing on just one exercise is never a good idea. If you find that running is causing your joint pain to increase, then try swapping that run for some laps in the swimming pool, as this will help to ease the pressure on your joints and muscles.
Get the right shoes
One of the most important tips to reduce the impact of joint pain when running is to make sure that you are wearing the right shoes. Normal trainers and shoes are great for walking, but they are not designed for the continuous pounding of the pavement.
The right running shoes will ensure that your feet and ankles are properly supported, reducing the pressure and impact of running. Not only that, but many of the latest shoes on the market are able to absorb shockwaves, lowering the stress on your knees and other joints.
Sometimes, changing your running terrain can transform the pain you experience. Harder surfaces such as concrete and sidewalks offer a higher impact with every step. Switching to grass can help to create a softer landing, minimizing the discomfort you experience. Equally, elevations can play a major role in the pressure your joints face, so try reducing the number of hills you run up or down.
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