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Should you run with osteoarthritis of the facet joints?

Q) Should you run with osteoarthritis of the facet joints? Can you run two to three times a week and also mix with low-impact and strengthening exercises? Or can running damage cartilage in facet joint and is it and better to avoid it? I am a 53-year-old female and had run for 32 years most days. I had an MRI a year ago which showed some degeneration in the facet joints with a synovial cyst. There was some stenosis but for the last six months my symptoms have much improved with the exercises and activity mentioned above.
Sylvia, via email (Spring 2013)

A) Well, you have asked a believer! Of course you can, providing you are not aggravating your symptoms. Arthritis of the facet joints in the spine (the small joints behind the discs that allow you to rotate and move from side to side) is inevitable at your age and it shouldn't necessarily stop you doing what you want to do. I know people who exercise to a high level with all sorts of musculoskeletal problems – generally your body will tell you if you are doing the wrong thing, although a certain amount of discomfort is to be expected as you grow older. So keep up the running and combine with core stability exercises, weight control and healthy diet, all of which should be a routine at your age. It will certainly help you as time goes by and, at the same time, will improve your sense of wellbeing.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Spring 2013 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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