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Exercising with a Flare-up of Knee Arthritis

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Learn how to safely exercise during a knee arthritis flare-up, with tips on adjusting your workout routine, warming up, and icing your knee for optimal joint health.

When knee arthritis flares up, it's crucial to continue exercising to maintain joint flexibility, but it's essential to adjust your routine to prevent further irritation. Follow these guidelines for safe and effective workouts during a flare-up.

Risks of Exercising During a Flare-up

Exercising during a knee arthritis flare-up can potentially cause further irritation and discomfort. Activities that increase pressure or friction on the knee, such as running or deep knee bending, can worsen symptoms, so it's essential to modify your routine.

Safe Activities for Knee Arthritis Flare-ups

During a flare-up, opt for activities that relieve pressure and friction on the knee. Some options include:

  • Riding a stationary bike
  • Using an elliptical machine
  • Practicing yoga
  • Swimming
  • Walking on flat terrain
  • Upper-body strength training
  • Core strengthening

Additionally, lower-body strengthening exercises can help relieve knee pain by taking some of the pressure off the knees.

Pre-Workout Tips for Knee Arthritis Flare-ups

Before exercising during a flare-up, consider warming up the knee joint and surrounding muscles. Using a heating pad or taking a hot shower can help loosen the joint, as can spending 10 minutes on a stationary bike.

Post-Workout Tips for Knee Arthritis Flare-ups

After your workout, try icing your knee to decrease inflammation. If you consistently need to ice your knee to function, consider taking a break from exercising or adjusting your routine. Break up your workouts into shorter sessions, or change the type of exercise you do.

Remember to listen to your body and let pain be your guide. Staying active is important, but it's crucial to adapt your exercise routine to protect your knee during a flare-up.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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