Arthritis: Runner’s Guide to Treatment and Prevention
If you suspect that you have any arthritis-related symptoms, this article will put you in the know for what you must do.
Arthritis can plague runners at any age. Running is a popular activity for exercise and for leisure. A testament to its enduring popularity is the fact that so many individuals will run regularly, despite the numerous injuries that can afflict runners. Running injuries range in terms of their cause, the severity of pain, and time it takes to fully recover from them. Some injuries can affect one gender more than the other, and some injuries are more common among the elderly than the young. Among these injuries that affect the elderly, one of the most painful and debilitating to their running ability is arthritis. This is a serious condition and this discussion has been co-written by Eddy Mihai and curated by Diana Rangaves, PharmD, RPh. Arthritis is commonly seen as an injury that afflicts the old, but there have been cases of juvenile arthritis. Regardless of age, having arthritis can be a major setback in running and life in general. In order to ensure that you are able to keep running, and maintain a high quality of life, it is important to understand arthritis, the different forms it comes in, and the effect it can have on runners old and young. This article will go over the nature of arthritis, some causes and risk factors, as well as methods you can try that, will treat the condition and prevent it from occurring to you.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is a general term that describes several different conditions that result in chronic joint pain. Depending on the type of arthritis, the cause of its affliction is dependent on several factors outlined below. As previously mentioned, it is a common injury among the elderly, although women are also more susceptible to this injury.1 This injury has become more common as of late; estimates have shown an increase in the number of individuals affected by this disease in the United States to roughly 18% by the year 20202. With just under a fifth of the population projected to be afflicted with this condition, it is rapidly becoming a more serious concern to the general population.
Regardless of what type of arthritis is affecting you, the common symptoms of the condition are pains in the connecting joints in your bodies, such as your elbows, knees, shoulders, and ankles. In addition to joint pain, additional symptoms from rheumatoid arthritis include swelling from inflammation, unusual warmth and redness, tenderness to the touch, and limited mobility or stiffness. In the case of psoriatic arthritis, an additional symptom is the development of psoriasis on the body in conjunction with joint pain. For gout, pain can be felt commonly in the toes and is most prevalent in the big toes. If arthritis affecting you is fibromyalgia, the pain can come and go, becoming more sensitive upon contact.
Symptoms of Runner’s Arthritis:
- Joint pain
- Joint swelling and inflammation
- Joint redness and sensitivity to touch
- Higher body temperature and fever
- Limited range of motion
- Psoriasis (only applies to psoriatic arthritis)
Depending on the type of arthritis you are afflicted with, the causes vary. There are over 50 kinds of arthritis, but this article will go over the most common forms: osteoarthritis, rheumatoid, psoriatic, and fibromyalgia. In the cases of rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis, the cause is your own immune system. This hijacking of your autoimmune system can be caused by overgrown stomach bacteria, as one Harvard study has shown.3 Instead of acting as your body’s line of defense against illness, your immune system becomes overactive and attacks your body, degrading the connection points between your tendons and bone. This results in joint pain and the loss of mobility.
In cases of fibromyalgia, the cause of pain isn’t found in the joints themselves, but rather in the central nervous system. While the central nervous system plays a part in the pain derived from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, it is the primary source of pain for fibromyalgia.4 Since no tissue has deteriorated, mobility isn’t often limited for runners afflicted by fibromyalgia, but the pain is still felt in the connecting joints. This pain will come and go inconsistently, and other sources of pain or discomfort are often amplified due to problems with the functionality of your central nervous system. In osteoarthritis, the breaking down of cartilage from repeated wear and tear compounds the pain derived from the central nervous system and can cause hampered mobility.
The risk factor most common to the development of arthritis, and the most recognizable is age. As you grow older, the risk of developing this injury increases, and the vast majority of those suffering from arthritis are in the age range of 50 or older. However, there are other factors that can lead to the onset of this injury, depending on the type. With rheumatoid arthritis, women are more likely to suffer from this injury than men, with the ratio of female to male cases being approximately 3 to 1. On the other hand, men are more likely to develop gout than women, although the gender disparity tends to decrease as age increases.
Aside from age and gender, genetic factors play a role in the development of this running injury as well. For rheumatoid arthritis, some patients have been observed to carry differences to non-sufferers in genes relating to the functionality of their immune systems.7 The obese are at risk of developing osteoarthritis in their knees, making those with a genetic predisposition to obesity at risk of becoming injured. Decreased serotonin in the brain can result in a lower sensitivity to pain, meaning individuals suffering from depression may also be at risk of developing forms of arthritis that affect the central nervous system, such as fibromyalgia. Other potential risk factors are largely independent of genetic factors and are more incidental. Individuals who have sustained injuries in their joints increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis in those joints, as are people working in occupations that require repetitive movement such as squatting or bending their knees.
Individuals at risk of Developing Runner’s Arthritis:
- Women, in the case of rheumatoid arthritis
- Men, in the case of gout
- The elderly
- The obese
- Individuals with a genetic predisposition to autoimmune disease
- Individuals with prior injuries
- Manual laborers
Depending on the form of arthritis, there are a few running injuries that can exhibit similar symptoms and lead to a false diagnosis. This makes it especially important that you obtain a proper diagnosis of your injury with a doctor or medical professional; failure to do so can result in a great deal of wasted time and money, as well as potentially permanent damage to your body as a result of improper treatment. Be sure to rule out these other running injuries before beginning treatment:
- Muscle Strain: Strain in particular muscle groups can cause pain while moving them, which has the potential to be misconstrued as pain in the joints themselves. Additionally, damaged muscles can cause limited mobility, which is another common symptom of arthritis. This condition can be ruled out as a cause if the pain fades away on its own after a few weeks, or by having blood tests performed by a doctor.
- Stress Fracture: If a fracture in your bones occurs near a particular joint, the pain experienced while moving that joint can be easily mistaken. Not all forms of arthritis are symmetrical; sometimes, one particular group can suffer greater pain than the others. In order to rule out this possibility, doctors can use imaging techniques such as X-rays to determine the cause of your pain.
- Chronic Pain Syndrome: Since pain in your body is felt as a result of your brain, it is possible that mental disorders can lead to feeling pain in situations where pain should not normally be felt. If you have felt chronic pain in your joints, but blood work and imaging scans have revealed no potential cause, it is possible that you are suffering from chronic pain syndrome. This condition can come about as a result of past trauma, or in individuals with a mental condition such as borderline personality disorder.9 In the case of chronic pain syndrome, treatment will require talking to a psychiatrist.
Runners afflicted with arthritis will have a tremendously tough time resuming regular physical activity without some form of help. However, the first step to determining what kind of help is necessary to treat your particular case, you will need to obtain a proper diagnosis from a doctor or other medical professional.
Upon meeting with your doctor, the first course of action they will take is an interview. They will ask you about the nature of your pain: where it is located and the level of severity. They will also ask you if the pain is worse at particular times of the day, such as when you wake up in the morning or later in the evening. This interview process may also involve some light physical examination, where they will feel certain parts of your body and ask you to evaluate the levels of pain you experience. From here, the next step is to perform some blood tests in order to pinpoint the exact cause of your injury, and figure out what form of arthritis you are dealing with.10
The blood tests will involve measuring many different aspects of your blood. For instance, a complete blood count examination will measure your levels of red and white blood cells. If there are discrepancies in either of these elements, it may be indicative of more severe problems. Measurements of your antinuclear antibodies and rheumatoid factor will determine if the source of your pain is related to rheumatoid arthritis, and tests measuring your C-reactive protein or erythrocyte sedimentation rate can detect if there is inflammation present. In addition to determining what type of arthritis is present in your body, these tests can also rule out false positives, such as kidney disease.
From here, your doctor may need to perform more comprehensive scans of your body using imaging technology. The different types of imaging tools and what they can detect are outlined below.
Imaging Methods for Diagnosing Runner’s Arthritis:
- X-rays: In an x-ray scan, your body is exposed to radiation in order to capture an image of your body’s skeletal structure. With this examination, bone spurs or stress fractures can be detected, which can then be ruled out as false positives. Additionally, any loss of cartilage can be detected, which is a sign of osteoarthritis.
- MRI: Short for magnetic resonance imaging, this is a procedure that will take a highly detailed 360-degree scan of your body. It will capture more detail than a standard X-ray, such as the tendons and ligaments that connect to cartilage and bone. If discrepancies are found in these areas during an MRI scan, osteoarthritis may be the cause.
- CT Scan: This is a sort of middle ground between an X-ray and MRI. Short for computerized tomography scan, it involves taking multiple X-ray images in a 360-degree range of your body, allowing for a more detailed scan of your bones and connecting tissue. This may be recommended in lieu of an MRI if there are circumstances in which MRI scanning isn’t viable.
- Ultrasound: Using high-frequency sound waves, this is a scan that targets a particular joint in a noninvasive way. In addition to accurately analyzing the joint, many doctors will use ultrasound scans to guide them when performing injections for treatment procedures.
- Bone Density Scan: Also known as a DEXA scan, this procedure involves bombarding your body with radiation, but at a smaller level than with ordinary X-rays. This scan is useful for measuring the level of density in your bones, which can be indicative of rheumatoid or osteoarthritis.
If further testing is required, another procedure your doctor may attempt is arthrocentesis.11 Usually, with the assistance of an ultrasound scan, doctors will use a needle to extract fluid from a particular joint. This fluid can then be studied in a lab to determine if there are elements present that are causing inflammation of your joint. With this procedure, doctors can also inject medicine directly into an affected joint to help combat cases of inflammation if they are detected.
While it can certainly be a debilitating injury, arthritis is a very well-known condition. This means that there are many options for medication that can treat a number of symptoms presented by this injury, and can also address the root cause. There are specific medications that can treat each form that this injury takes, and will either alleviate the pain or assist your body with the recovery process. While medication shouldn’t be the only treatment method you use with runner’s arthritis, it can be used to great effect in conjunction with other treatment methods outlined further below.
This is an acronym that stands for Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. NSAIDs are medications that will treat the symptoms of inflammation. They aren’t as potent as some stronger medications that can only be obtained with a prescription, but this means that they are easily obtained over-the-counter at any pharmacy or drug store. NSAIDs can be effective in treating cases where inflammation is a symptom of the root cause of your injury, such as with rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis. It is most commonly found in pill form, and are safe to take with other forms of medication due to their reduced potency.
Common NSAIDs Used to Treat Runner’s Arthritis:
- Ibuprofen, commonly found in Advil
- Naproxen, commonly found in Aleve
Analgesics are a type of painkiller medication. These will not help your body recover from your condition, but they will relieve the pain that is brought on by it. They can be effective at mitigating the pain from essentially all forms this injury takes, but are most commonly prescribed for treatment against osteoarthritis. The strength of analgesics ranges widely, with some being available over-the-counter and some necessitating a prescription from your doctor, due to their opioid content. They can be taken in pill or patch form, and are usually safe to take with other medication. However, it is still important to consult a doctor or medical professional before mixing medication.
Common Analgesics Used to Treat Runner’s Arthritis:
- Acetaminophen, commonly found in Tylenol
- Codeine, commonly found in cough medicine
Disease-Modifying Antirheumatic Drugs, also known as DMARDs, are used to great effect in treating rheumatoid arthritis.12 They are used to slow the Aion of joint health that commonly occurs as a result of this injury, and they work by affecting the body’s immune system. This is why they are referred to as disease-modifying since they modify the way the disease affects your body. Some adverse side effects can be observed when using DMARDs, such as nausea and diarrhea, but weaker forms of this medication can prevent these effects from occurring during treatment. They are commonly used in conjunction with other medicines such as NSAIDs or biologics.
Common DMARDs Used to Treat Runner’s Arthritis:
- Hydroxychloroquine, commonly found in Plaquenil
- Sulfasalazine, commonly found in Azulfidine
- Leflunomide, commonly found in Arava
- Minocycline, commonly found in Minocin
Biologics, or biological response modifiers, are medications that function as treatment methods for rheumatoid arthritis. They are less severe than DMARDs since they only affect one part of the body’s response to the disease, rather than the entire immune system. However, they are commonly used in conjunction with DMARDs and can be very effective at stopping the effects of this injury on the body when used in such a way.13 This type of medicine is usually administered to your body with a needle, although some biologics can be taken orally in pill form.
Common Biologics Used to Treat Runner’s Arthritis:
- Tocilizumab, commonly found in Actemra
- Adalimumab, commonly found in Humira
- Infliximab, commonly found in Remicade
- Tofacitinib, commonly found in Xeljanz
These are more powerful anti-inflammatory medicines, useful for treating severe cases of rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis. The steroids found in these medicines make them only available to patients with a prescription. Although sounding similar to the more commonly known muscle-building drug anabolic steroids, corticosteroids affect the body differently by imitating the chemical cortisol, which is naturally produced in your body. Many sufferers of rheumatoid arthritis have limited cortisol production in the body, so this medicine can supplement the production of this hormone while treating the inflammation caused by this injury. Corticosteroids can be taken orally with a pill, topically with a skin cream, or intravenously with a needle.
Common Corticosteroids Used to Treat Runner’s Arthritis:
In conjunction with medication, many doctors will recommend physical therapy for further treatment. This is the most effective for treating osteoarthritis, but the methods listed below can help ease the pain from almost any type of arthritis, with the exception of cases where the central nervous system is affected such as fibromyalgia. In addition to relieving pain and inflammation, physical therapy can help train your body to reach a healthier state, reducing the risk of developing other potential running injuries in the future.
The physical therapist can help you find a good customized program just for you:
– He will teach you how to have a proper posture
– He will teach you how to utilize walkers and canes if needed
-He will prescribe various variations of your surroundings ( for example, chairs that are cushioned properly)
– He will prescribe various treatment alternatives, from shoe inserts to braces, from hot and cold therapy to splints for joint support.
Learning the exercises and incorporating them into your routine is very important. In most cases, the physical therapist won’t always have to supervise and guide you through the rehabilitation, but a visit every month is advised. If you have any doubt or if you notice a change in your physical situation, you should refer it all to your medical professional. The aim is to help your body progressively become stronger and more flexible while reducing stiffness and pain. Along with that, physical therapy can increase balance and coordination.
The first thing you have to do at your first appointment with your PT is to tell your medical professional about your objectives that you want to reach through physical therapy, for example, maybe you want to be able to ride your bicycle without feeling pain in the knees and feet, or you want to to be able to take long walks without feeling pain in the knees, hips, and joints.
Now, how do you find a good physical therapist in your area?
First of all, you can ask your doctor if they know a good physical therapist near your area, and you can ask your relatives too. You should also check your insurance’s limits to see if your treatment is included in it.
As a second option, you can check the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) website, which is a verified website that can help you find the ideal physical therapist in your area. If you find some possible physical therapists, contact them and ask them about their experience, their preparation etc. After you have examined your alternatives, you are ready to choose the best one.
Performing physical therapy exercises while submerged in warm water has many benefits to sufferers of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, as studies have shown. Hydrotherapy can reduce the difficulty in performing the movements associated with physical rehabilitation, and the warmth of the water can also ease the pain in affected joints. This method involves simple exercises involving the joints, such as walking, knee bends, and squats. It can be performed either at a physical therapy clinic or at home if you have access to a heated swimming pool.
This is the most common form of physical therapy, usually performed at a clinic with the help of a physical therapist. These exercises will start at a low intensity, with the aim being to build up the muscles and joints to become accustomed to exercises with a higher level of resistance. This method of treatment will also usually involve additional materials, such as ice and heat packs and a TENS machine, in order to reduce pain in the affected joints. With successful implementation, physiotherapy can increase the strength and flexibility of the muscles and joints targeted so that pain is reduced, and recovery is made easier.
This form of physical therapy is meant to assist patients with their daily activities. If it is too painful or difficult to perform common tasks such as lifting objects or cleaning up around the house, these exercises are meant to reduce the pain of these motions. If there are circumstances where the patient’s body cannot be trained to perform these tasks at the capacity they were once able to, occupational therapy can help sufferers of arthritis to perform these tasks differently, so as to reduce the pain of these activities. An occupational therapist may suggest you use different tools when performing these tasks, such as sitting on a stool to perform activities that would otherwise require you to be on your feet. They may also suggest specific items that are easier on your hands, such as extra large vegetable peelers when cooking.
This is an ancient Chinese method of treating all manner of physical ailments, involving placing small sterilized needles in various points of the body. Many sufferers of arthritis have turned to acupuncture in order to relieve the pain brought on by their injury, and in some cases, it has benefited patients by improving their mobility in affected joints. With controlled scientific studies, scientists have determined that acupuncture is most effective in treating osteoarthritis,16 although it isn’t particularly effective in cases of the rheumatoid variety.
Yoga for arthritis
Yoga is an oriental discipline that includes physical exercises that also require awareness. Yoga for arthritis is a great way to cure and control arthritis, it is easy, cheap and it does not involve poses that are dangerous for people who are not very flexible. Here are some moves you can do at home, without any equipment or just with an optional mat.
1. The Child’s Pose.
You should on your knees, with your buttock making contact with your calves. Bring your big toes together behind you, Reach your arms forward, to the ground. Inhale and exhale for a couple of times to gently stretch your back. you should be able to feel it in your back and you should feel relaxed.
2. The Bridge Pose.
Lie on your back and bend your legs at the knees, while keeping the soles of your feet to the ground, then push your hips to the ceiling so that your body creates a soft oblique line that is almost parallel to the ground. Keep your shoulders to the ground, your arms pushed into the floor and your head on the mat. Don’t forget to breathe. Keep your hamstrings, quadriceps and your core tense. You should feel it in your whole body.
3. The Supine Twisting.
Bring your knees to your chest, while you are lying on the mat and on your back. Hug the knees and oscillate back and forth, side to side. Don’t forget to breathe. Elongate your arms to the sides to create a “T”, then move your knees on the side while twisting the torso to the other side. Hold for a couple of seconds then repeat this move on the other side. You should feel it in the whole body but especially in the torso.
4. The forward hang.
Stand tall, then intertwine your fingers behind you while you are bending at the hip area. Don’t forget to keep your arms straight. Hold this position for a couple of seconds. You should feel it in your arms, back, and hamstrings.
5. Anjaneyasana or Crescent Lunge.
Stand tall, then move forward with one leg until the knee of the leg creates a 90 degrees angle. Lift your arms up and try to tilt backward. Be careful not to fall! Breathe and hold for a couple of seconds then repeat on the other side. You should feel it in your hamstrings, quads, hip flexors, and arms.
6. The Downward-Facing Dog.
Begin on all fours, expand your palms on the mat then press the hips towards the ceiling. Your body should have the shape of an upside-down “V”. Try and keep your arms and legs steady while you stretch your calves, your hamstrings, and your whole back. Do not forget to breathe and try to relax.
7. The One-legged pigeon pose.
Lie on your mat on your buttocks, then take the left leg behind your back and keep it straight. make sure that your knee is touching the mat. Take your right leg and bend it at the knee, then bring the feet as close to the opposite hip as you can. Place your elbows on the ground whilst you are bending at the hip area. Hold this for about 30 seconds, but always, slowly and progressively strive to hold it for more than 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side. You should feel it in your hips, legs and in the hamstrings. This move should be done while breathing.
8. The Cat-Cow pose.
On all fours, exhale while you push your spine towards the ceiling, creating an upside-down “U” with your back, then push your belly towards the floor, creating a “U” with your back, while exhaling and lifting your head towards the ceiling. You should inhale when transitioning from the first move to the second one. You should be able to feel your stretch in your back and core.
9. The Pelvic Tilt.
While you are lying on the floor with your legs bent at the knees, slightly lift your pelvis up. Breathe and then come back to your initial position. You should feel it in your hip area and torso.
In extreme cases of arthritis where physical therapy and medication fail to properly treat the root of the condition, surgery may be recommended as a last resort. These procedures are common among the elderly, and range in severity. Some procedures may involve repairing the damage done to the tendons and ligaments around your joints, while others will involve a complete replacement of the joint affected, such as the knee or the hip. After these surgical procedures, the movement must be limited for several days after, and the surgeon will usually require you to stay at the hospital for a few nights. Once you have returned home, it can take up to 9 months for a full recovery, and physical therapy will usually be necessary in order to re-acclimate your body to the changes from surgery.
Types of Surgery Used to Treat Runner’s Arthritis:
- Arthroscopy: This procedure involves making small incisions around the affected joint, and performing small repairs in the area, often with the help of a small camera. Arthroscopy can involve repairing tears in the tendons or removing cartilage that has been dislodged. It is common among younger patients, and while it provides immediate relief from pain in the joint as well as increased mobility, it may not stop future deterioration in the joint.
- Arthrodesis: This is a procedure where bones are fused together in affected parts of the body, such as the wrist or ankle. Metal pins and rods are inserted to connect bones to each other, and over time these bones will solidify into one piece. It is used for individuals who have suffered severe bone damage as a result of inflammatory or osteoarthritis. Fortunately, this procedure is highly effective and can provide long-term stability in the joint, but the tradeoff to this is reduced flexibility and mobility in the affected area.
- Osteotomy: This procedure aims to rebuild bones that may have deteriorated from injury, or to correct imbalances in one area. It involves cutting and removing portions of bone, and may also involve adding new portions to existing bone. Often used in the knee or hip, an osteotomy can help sufferers of pain as an alternative to total joint replacement. It is a very difficult and rare procedure, with many surgeons often recommending total joint replacement instead.
- Total Joint Replacement: This is a procedure in which the entire joint in question is replaced with an artificial prosthesis. This is often used among the elderly, in cases where they have experienced such a great degree of deterioration in their joints that they need to be replaced entirely. Depending on the severity of deterioration, some patients may only need partial replacement. There are modified versions of this procedure that will only replace certain parts, referred to as joint resurfacing.
- Synovectomy: This procedure is used on sufferers of inflammatory arthritis, such as the rheumatoid or psoriatic varieties. If inflammation has progressed to the point that the lining of the joints has grown too much or become too swollen, this procedure will remove some of it in order to restore mobility to the affected joints. It is called a synovectomy because it targets the synovium, which is the name of the tissue that lines your joints.
Whether you are taking pains to avoid arthritis in the future, or you have just successfully treated a case of it in your own body, the tips listed below will help you prevent this injury from occurring in the future. These methods will work for runners of all ages, and can significantly decrease the likelihood of developing this injury in the future. Some forms are easier to prevent than others; for instance, osteoarthritis can be avoided by taking care of your joints and avoiding putting too much stress on them. However, some individuals with a genetic predisposition to arthritis may find it harder to avoid. For these individuals, consider these techniques as ways to mitigate the damage this injury can cause on your body.
Poor diet has been linked to the development of some forms of arthritis in individuals. This is due to a few factors: first, a diet that doesn’t contain enough vital nutrients for maintaining overall body health can contribute to inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. Second, diets high in sugars and saturated fats can contribute to obesity, which is a major risk factor for developing osteoarthritis. Aside from these injuries, poor diet has been linked to a wide array of running injuries, making it a major priority for all runners to maintain a proper diet. In general, seeking out non-processed foods and incorporating many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will provide your body with the vitamins and minerals needed to maintain a healthy state. However, in some circumstances, you may need to supplement your diet by taking specific vitamins in a pill form. Below are some foods and nutrients you should try and incorporate into a healthy diet, as well as some foods to avoid.
Dietary Additions for Preventing Runner’s Arthritis:
- Fish: Cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and herring can reduce inflammation in the body, preventing inflammatory forms of arthritis. This is due to their high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have strong anti-inflammatory properties. If you don’t have access to fresh fish, or if you simply don’t like the taste, you can take fish oil supplements in pill form to add these fatty acids to your diet.
- Citrus Fruits: Citrus fruits such as grapefruits and oranges contain high concentrations of Vitamin C, which is linked to healthy bone growth and reduced inflammation. The bone health will help prevent joint pain caused by osteoarthritis, and the anti-inflammatory effects will prevent inflammation-based forms of this injury.
- Brightly Colored Fruits and Vegetables: Specific brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as pumpkins, papayas, and tangerines, contain carotenoids. These play a large role in reducing inflammation throughout the body. Other bright fruits such as cherries and raspberries contain anthocyanins, another powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient.
- Leafy Green Vegetables: Certain leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and lettuce will prevent inflammation. This is accomplished due to their high concentrations of Vitamin K, an essential nutrient that cannot be produced in the body.
- Nuts and Seeds: Cashews, pistachios, almonds, and walnuts are terrific additions to any diet with the aim of reducing inflammation in the body. The benefit of consuming an appropriate amount of these days is an increase in Vitamin B6, which is often deficient in individuals suffering from inflammatory conditions.
Dietary Exclusions for Preventing Runner’s Arthritis:
- Saturated Fats: Excessive amounts of red meat, cheese and butter can lead to an excess of saturated fat in your body. The side effect of this is an increased likelihood of obesity, as well as a greater risk of body inflammation. Try limiting the amount of red meat you eat every day and consider switching to reduced-fat dairy products such as skim milk.
- Nightshade Vegetables: A certain type of vegetables known as nightshades are packed with important vitamins and minerals for improving overall bodily health. These nightshades are eggplant, red bell peppers, potatoes and tomatoes, and one of the nutrients they contain a high concentration of is solanine. This chemical has been linked to arthritic pain in some sensitive individuals, so if you find yourself experiencing joint pain and you eat a great deal of these foods, consider cutting them out to see if your symptoms diminish.
Another important facet to preventing arthritic running injuries is to incorporate regular exercise alongside a proper diet. A combination of cardiovascular activity such as running with common strength and flexibility training can go a long way towards preventing arthritis and will improve your health overall. Building up strength in the muscles surrounding joints will provide them with extra protection, and stretches will improve their mobility. Strength can be increased with resistance training, and flexibility can be improved with different stretches and yoga poses.
Strength Building Exercises for Preventing Runner’s Arthritis:
These exercises will increase the strength of many major muscle groups in your body. The majority of these exercises will require the use of extra weight, such as a medicine ball, kettlebell or dumbbell. Take care to not use too much weight when starting out. Be sure to consult a doctor or medical professional before attempting these exercises to make sure they are right for you. Be sure to rest for a short period of time, around thirty seconds to one minute, in between sets. Some soreness should be expected after performing these exercises, but if you experience sharp pain then stop immediately and seek medical attention.
- Bicep Curls: This exercise will improve the muscles in your arms, providing extra protection for your wrist and elbow joints. This exercise is performed with a weight held in each hand, but beginners should start with a weight that is no more than 10% of their total body weight. Stand up straight, with your feet spaced slightly apart and your arms dangling at your sides, holding a weight in each hand. Slowly lift one arm up toward your chest, bending your elbow so your arm curls up and your hand is at sternum height. Then, slowly lower your arm back to the starting position and repeat the movement with your other arm. Perform this exercise ten times with each arm to complete one set, and perform up to three sets of this exercise every day.
- Bent Over Row: This exercise will improve the strength in your back, increasing its ability to bear your body weight and reducing joint pain in your pelvis and hips. It is important to use very little weight in this exercise to start, no more than 5% of your body weight, in order to prevent painful back injury. Stand up straight with your feet spaced slightly apart and a weighted object held in both of your hands. Bend your upper body while keeping your back and neck straight, so that your head is pointing toward the floor and your arms are dangling under your chest with the weight in both of your hands. Slowly lift the weight up to your chest, bending your elbows and pulling back your shoulders. Once it reaches your chest, slowly lower the weight back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise ten times for one set, and perform up to three sets of this a day.
- Wall Push-Up: This exercise will improve your chest and arm strength, helping to prevent joint pain in your shoulders and elbows. Stand up straight next to a wall, with your feet spaced slightly apart. Both of your hands should be placed on the wall with your arms fully outstretched and your weight supported against the wall. Slowly lean the top of your body toward the wall, bending your arms and keeping your feet in the same position on the ground. Once your arms are fully bent, use them to push your body away from the wall, back to the starting position. Perform this movement ten times for a set, and perform up to three sets in a day.
- Squats: This is a terrific exercise for strengthening your legs and core muscles, and it will improve the protection of your hip and knee joints. Stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back straight, slowly lower your upper body by bending your legs until your butt is closer to the ground than your knees. You can hold your arms out in front of your for balance if needed. Once you have reached the depth required, slowly raise your upper body back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise five to ten times for a set, and perform up to three sets a day. You can add some extra resistance to this exercise by holding a weight in your arms while performing it, but be careful not to exceed 25% of your body weight.
- Calf Raises: This exercise will strengthen your calf muscles, and can provide additional protection to your ankle joints. Start by standing up straight with your feet spaced slightly apart. Slowly raise your entire body by standing on the tips of your toes, and then lower your feet back to the ground. Repeat this exercise ten times for one set, and perform up to three sets in a day. You can add extra resistance to this exercise by holding a weight in your hands while performing it, or by performing this exercise with your heels dangling off the edge of a curb or small step.
Stretches for Preventing Runner’s Arthritis:
Performing regular stretches that target specific parts of your body can ease the pain from arthritis, as well as work to prevent it from occurring by increasing the tensile strength and flexibility of your joints. These stretches can be performed at home and may require the use of extra materials such as a mat or rug. Always check with your doctor or physical therapist before trying these exercises to make sure that they are right for you. Some soreness should be expected after performing these exercises, but if you experience sharp pain then stop immediately and seek medical attention.
- Neck Rolls: This exercise can be performed while seated or standing, as it only involves moving your head. Performing this stretch will improve the flexibility in your neck, preventing pain in your collarbone. Start by bending your head toward one side, so that your ear touches your shoulder. After holding this position for a few seconds, roll your neck down so that your chin touches your sternum, hold the position for a few seconds, and raise it again so that your other ear touches the shoulder on the other side.
- Shoulder Stretch: This stretch will increase the flexibility in your shoulders. Warm up for this exercise by lifting your shoulders and releasing them several times in a shrugging motion. To start the exercise, lift both of your arms above your head. Bend the elbow of one arm so that your hand is touching your back. Grab the elbow of your bent arm with your other hand and gently pull it toward your head until resistance is felt. Hold this position for ten seconds, then repeat the exercise with the other shoulder by mirroring the positions of your arms.
- Wrist Stretch: This exercise will improve the flexibility in your wrists. Warm up for this exercise by rotating your wrists, making circular motions with your hands. Then, standing close to a wall, press your hands against the wall with your wrists pointing up and your hands placed upside down. You should feel some tension in your wrists; to increase the tension, place your hands higher on the wall, and you can decrease the tension by lowering them. Hold this position for ten seconds, then remove your hands from the wall.
- Hamstring Stretch: This exercise targets the backs of your legs, improving the flexibility of your knees. Begin by lying on your back with a mat or rug, with the knee of one leg bent so that the foot is flat on the mat. Lift your other leg off the ground, with your knee slightly bent and your foot off the ground. Grab the back upper thigh of the raised leg and pull it towards your chest until you feel a tension. Hold the position for up to ten seconds, then release and repeat the exercise with your other leg.
- Hip Stretch: Performing these stretches will help reduce pain and increase flexibility in your hip joints. Begin by kneeling on a mat or rug, resting your weight on your knees and hands. Slowly lift one leg off the mat, extending your entire leg straight off the ground with your foot pointing away from your body. Hold this position for five to ten seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat this movement with your other leg.
Regardless of what form arthritis comes in, the result is a great deal of pain when performing daily activities. Running can be incredibly uncomfortable at best, and impossibly painful at worst when facing this injury. It can seem to some sufferers of this condition that running will no longer be feasible when faced with this debilitating condition. However, there are many medical professionals and scientists studying arthritis, in all its different forms, coming up with methods to treat and prevent it. With a bit of knowledge, you should be able to mitigate the damage this condition can cause your body, prevent it from occurring in the future, and resume your regular exercise regimen. Although this article is sourced from professionally published scientific journals and articles written by medical professionals, it should not be taken as medical advice. Always go to a doctor if you are experiencing pain.
Co-written by Eddy Mihai
Curated by Diana Rangaves, PharmD, RPh
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