How do you run with osteoarthritis of the knee?

By: Contributors

Knee pain and swelling may increase in intensity during vigorous activity, like running. This is the result of your bones rubbing together due to cartilage weakening and deteriorating [source: NIAMS]. You may be suffering through the pain wondering if you need to find a new past-time. Before you run out and buy a swimsuit or skis, you'll be happy to learn that you don't need to give up running. In fact, research suggests that running does not cause or exacerbate osteoarthritis of the knee. On the contrary, exercise can help improve your joint strength and flexibility, leading to a reduction of osteoarthritis symptoms over the long term [source: NIAMS]. Exercise is typically part of a treatment program for anyone with osteoarthritis.

The key is to reduce pain but remain active. There are four different types of exercises that can help reduce your knee pain while running: strengthening exercises, conditioning exercises, range-of-motion exercises, and balance and agility exercises [source: NIAMS]. Before running, you should also make sure to stretch and warm up, which reduces the risk of knee injury. You may want to consult with a physical therapist to learn more about how to incorporate these exercises into your workout regime.


If you experience moderate to severe knee pain due to osteoarthritis, you may require further intervention. Consider using pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medication before, during and/or after running. Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may do the trick [source: Mayo Clinic]. Ibuprofen and naproxen have the added benefit of reducing inflammation. If your knee pain is not adequately relieved by over-the-counter medication, you may want to try prescription pain relievers or even cortisone shots. Beware, however: Too many cortisone shots can actually cause knee damage. Braces and special orthopedic shoe inserts may also help relieve some pain while you run [source: Mayo Clinic]. Finally, alternative therapies, such as acupuncture may help reduce knee pain and impairment [source: NIAMS].