Exercise During Osteoarthritis Flare Up

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Where to Start

As with any other medical condition, it is important to speak to your physician when beginning an exercise regimen. Likewise, if you are experiencing an unusual flare-up of osteoarthritis, your doctor can advise in what adjustments to make in your normal exercise routine.

Arthritis sufferers will want to participate in three basic types of exercises: stability and strengthening exercises, cardiovascular exercise and exercises that will help increase range-of-motion. When done on a regular basis, these exercises help to improve stiff joints and other arthritis symptoms.

When experiencing an arthritic flare-up, it is tempting to want to avoid exercise all-together. However, modifying your routine in small ways can make it possible to exercise during an osteoarthritis flare up.

Exercises to Improve Stability and Strength

Building strong muscles and improving your stability when you have arthritis is beneficial as it will lessen the stress and pain experienced by arthritic joints. Strong muscles help to keep the joints stable and help to protect them from injury. Bicep curls, overhead presses and leg lifts with small hand weights or resistance bands are ways to improve stability and strength. Additionally, using a stability ball to perform some exercises will also help to improve the muscle strength.

If one or more of your joints is currently in a flare-up situation, decrease the amount of weight you would normally use in strength building exercises, or rest that particular joint for the time being.

Cardiovascular Exercise

It isn’t necessary to train for a marathon for cardiovascular exercise to be effective, especially when you are experiencing a flare-up. When participating in any physical activity that increases your heart rate, your lungs and muscles all work more efficiently and help to improve your overall well-being. Additionally, cardiovascular exercise also helps to control your weight, thus improving the stress on joints.

Not all cardiovascular exercise is conducive to osteoarthritis flare-ups. Walking is probably the most basic, yet most effective form of cardiovascular exercise. When walking and low impact aerobics cannot be done, swimming and biking are good alternatives to try.

Range-of-Motion Exercises

Range-of-motion exercises are probably the best form of exercise during osteoarthritis flare up. These exercises involve gentle stretching of your muscles and joints. By moving your joints through their normal range-of-motion, such as shoulder rolls and stretching your arms overhead, you relieve stiffness in the joints. This also warms up the muscles, making it easier to perform more exercises or daily tasks.

Yoga, tai chi and basic stretching are all ways to incorporate flexibility exercises and help reduce symptoms of arthritis.

When experiencing a flare-up of osteoarthritis, it is tempting to avoid physical activity because of the associated arthritis pain. But in reality, performing specific exercises, or modifying your current exercises, can do a great deal to improve flexibility, muscle strength and physical well-being.


Mayo Clinic: “Exercise Helps Ease Arthritis Pain and Stiffness”: www.mayoclinic.com/health/arthritis/AR00009

WebMD: “Exercises for Osteoporosis” https://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/features/exercise-for-osteoporosis