Can You Run If You Have Osteoarthritis?

What Happens in Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, which is also known by the names of degenerative joint disease, is perhaps one of the most common joint conditions in the United States. Studies have estimated about 27 million Americans being affected by this condition. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, but is mostly seen in the weightbearing joints of the body, such as the knees and the hips even though the back and the neck can also be affected by Osteoarthritis.

Under normal circumstances, the cartilage covers the ends of the bones and forms a cushion between bones so that the bones do not rub against each other. What happens in osteoarthritis is that the cartilage starts to wear way to such an extent that there is direct contact between two bones and they start rubbing against each other resulting in stiffness, pain, and problems with movement of the joint. With progression of osteoarthritis, chips of bones may break away and form bone spurs. One of the most frequently asked questions by patients with osteoarthritis of the knees is that whether they can run with this condition? This article gives a brief overview of whether an individual can run with osteoarthritis.

Can You Run If You Have Osteoarthritis?

Can You Run If You Have Osteoarthritis? Are There Any Benefits Of Running When You Have Osteoarthritis?

The answer to this question is a big YES. Yes, you can run if you have osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis does not stop anyone from being able to run; although there are various misconceptions about whether an individual can run with osteoarthritis. However, there are certain precautions that the individual needs to take before running in order to protect the knee from further damage in osteoarthritis. In fact, there have been cases where running has actually caused a reduction in the pain caused by osteoarthritis. Some people believe that running actually exacerbates osteoarthritis, but in reality this is not true. Extensive research has proved that walking, running, and other forms of strenuous exercises have significantly reduced the need for knee or hip replacements in patients with osteoarthritis. Another study comprising of runners and non-runners has come to a conclusion that people who run on a routine basis have low incidences of osteoarthritis than people who do not run.

Also, as running actually assists in weight loss, such that there is less pressure put on the weightbearing surfaces of the body, running significantly reduces the risk of osteoarthritis and also reduces the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Thus, if an individual has osteoarthritis then he or she can definitely run provided certain precautionary measures are adhered to.

Some Guidelines for Running with Osteoarthritis

Start Slow & Stop When Having Severe Pain: The first and foremost for running if you have osteoarthritis is that it is normal to expect some pain when running due to osteoarthritis. However, if the pain increases while running, then the individual needs to stop and take a break for a couple of days before starting to run again. A baseline pain needs to be chalked out and if the pain level increases beyond this level when running with osteoarthritis, then it should be an indication for the individual to stop.

Mind The Footwear & The Surface: You can run if you have osteoarthritis, but you have to keep in mind the footwear and the surface. Studies have shown that flat soled footwear is the best for running with osteoarthritis. When suffering from osteoarthritis, it is always better to run on grass or gravel and avoid uneven surfaces when running, as it may jar the knees and increase the osteoarthritis pain.

When to Avoid Running If You Have Osteoarthritis?

If your symptoms change or worsen with running and if you feels which is not the usual pain of osteoarthritis, then running should be avoided as it may be some underlying condition like a chondromalacia patella or patellofemoral pain syndrome that may be at play here.


In conclusion, while there are misconceptions about running with osteoarthritis, studies have confirmed that there is no harm is running with this condition and if anything running may actually reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Thus, it is perfectly alright to run with osteoarthritis; you can and you should run if you have osteoarthritis providing you are not suffering from exacerbation of pain and other symptoms.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:February 8, 2019

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