Did you know that around 44% of people experiencing joint pain in the South East of England rate their quality of life as poor or extremely poor because of the pain [1]? Furthermore, 42% of those people say that their joint pain has got worse during the pandemic.

Joint pain can have a devastating impact on the way people live their lives and this, in turn, can affect mental health, relationships, work, and stress. There is increasing evidence to show that exercise can promote joint health by increasing muscle strength, maintaining range of movement, and increasing the stability of the joint.

We asked Circle Health Group National Clinical Lead and running enthusiast, Colin Thomas, for his advice on managing joint pain as a runner:

Q: Are there exercises we can do to help prevent joint pain?
A: Yes! Weight-bearing exercises such as lifting weights are excellent for improving bone and joint strength. Whatever exercises you choose to do, always ensure that you prioritise the correct technique before increasing the weight. It is always recommended to seek expert guidance.

Q: What if I don’t have any equipment or access to a gym?
A: Jumping-type exercises, also called Plyometric exercises, have been shown to improve bone and joint strength. Remember when you played hopscotch and skipping as a child? Return to those days!

Q: Can I make any dietary or lifestyle improvements to reduce my risk of joint pain?
A: Yes! There are a number of ways to optimise bone & joint health. Firstly, losing a few extra pounds can significantly reduce the stresses around your joints which occur during running. Secondly, aiming to get a sufficient amount of good quality sleep will help the joints recover from training. Finally, ensuring optimal Vitamin D levels helps maintain strong bones. As this Vitamin is produced in the skin by UV light from the sun, during the winter months in the UK we can become deficient, so dietary supplementation between late autumn and early spring is recommended.

Q: How much rest and recovery do I need in between my runs?
A: The amount of rest and recovery required increases as your training volume increases. Always build up gradually and follow the 10% rule which says you should only increase your distance by a maximum of 10% from one week to the next. If you do feel any bone or joint pain, take extra recovery time. It is better to take three days off training now than have to take three weeks or three months off at a later stage in your training.

Q: Can my footwear affect my risk of injury?
A: Make sure that your running shoes fit you properly, that they are comfortable for you to run in and that they are specific for running. Never go straight into a marathon without doing a number of shorter runs in them first to break them in and make sure that they don’t cause blisters!

Of course, if you do have pain and suspect an injury, we recommend obtaining expert advice and BMI Sports Medicine is on hand to help you with this!

Find out more at www.bmihealthcare.co.uk/hospitals/bmi-the-saxon-clinic

[1] Source: Circle Health Group 2020-21 Joint Pain Survey. Survey of 8,545 respondents, carried out between November 2020 and January 2021