Understand the Triggers of Knee Osteoarthritis Flare-Ups: A Deep Dive

Understand the Triggers of Knee Osteoarthritis Flare-Ups: A Deep Dive

Knee pain due to osteoarthritis (OA) is very common.  Globally, about 23% of people over the age of 40 have knee OA  (Elsevier Ltd. 2020). There are many possible causes of knee OA flare-ups. Some common trigger factors include weather changes, overuse or injury, and underlying health conditions. If you’re dealing with frequent flare-ups, it’s important to identify your triggers and take steps to avoid them. With proper management, you can keep your symptoms under control and live a full and active life despite this condition.

In this blog post, we will deep dive into what causes knee OA to flare up and how can help your knee OA from progressing.

What is knee osteoarthritis exactly?

Knee OA is an age-related degenerative joint disease that affects the knees and can cause varying levels of pain and stiffness. Knee osteoarthritis usually develops gradually over many years, as the protective cartilage between joints wears down due to aging or overuse. It’s important that individuals show their bodies respect by taking proper preventive measures such as stretching and strengthening exercises or to enjoy low impact exercise activities, such as swimming or biking, in between bouts or heavier impact exercises  to help minimize its occurrence. Knee osteoarthritis can’t be cured, but with treatment you can live an active and full life!

What triggers it?

Knowing what can cause flare-ups is essential to taking the steps necessary in order to limit their occurrences. Some of the most common triggers for knee osteoarthritis flare-ups include activities that involve strenuous weight bearing such as repetitive jumping sports, or contact sports, and downhill skiing ( particularly moguls or skiing on icy days). Additionally, cold temperatures—especially if experienced for prolonged periods of time—can make a person more prone to experiencing flares.  Knowing what triggers your knee osteoarthritis flares is key in better managing your symptoms and minimizing their impact, so it’s important to be aware of what can bring them on.

What can you do to help ?

Climbing stairs – It can be an effective way to both stay in shape, and reduce the effects of knee OA. According to research, climbing stairs can increase an individual’s quadriceps torque intensity which helps improve knee stability. Additionally, it improves muscle strength while also decreasing pain by maintaining joint alignment and increasing flexibility around the knee joint. Studies have shown that climbing stairs on a regular basis can help reduce symptoms associated with knee OA significantly.

Walking long distances – It can be a beneficial activity for physical health, weight loss and personal well-being, as it serves both to improve cardiovascular health while also providing psychological benefits. However, individuals with pre-existing joint conditions such as knee OA may not find walking suitable as exercise and should consult their physiotherapist or physician before engaging in any new physical activity. Despite this, even a modest increase in routine walking can turn out to be beneficial not only for long term physical well-being but also to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Bending down or squatting – It can be beneficial for improving knee OA pain, but should be done with caution. When performing this exercise, it is important to make sure that the knees remain in line with the feet and the back remains straight. Squatting strengthens the quadriceps muscles and tendons necessary to support joint health while also helping maintain range of motion. As a result, range of motion increases and pain decreases over time when done correctly and regularly. Consequently, this exercise can greatly contribute to reducing knee OA symptoms, provided that it is done in moderation with proper form. Another simple and often less painful way to do this is to stand up and then sit back down in a chair 5 x. Do this a few times each day. 

4 exercises for outer knee pain courtesy of Pure Form Physio (Read the caption)

How can I stop my knee osteoarthritis from progressing?

Fortunately, there are measures that one can take to stop it from progressing. Exercises such as walking, biking, and swimming are great for strengthening the joint’s muscles, providing it with greater stability without overstressing it. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help, since being overweight puts extra stress and strain on your knee joint. Seeing a physiotherapist on a regular basis is also paramount in dealing with knee osteoarthritis: they can monitor the progress of the condition and offer advice on medications and treatments that may be suitable, as well as providing suggestions to specialist medical services which could be very helpful. Taking preventive action now will ensure your osteoarthritis doesn’t reach an advanced stage and give you the best opportunity to stay comfortable in the long term.

How can physiotherapy help knee osteoarthritis?

Unfortunately, the aging process itself can trigger it in some individuals. Physiotherapy is a great option for those who suffer from knee osteoarthritis because it has the potential to slow the progression of the disease and improve a person’s quality of life significantly by teaching them how to safely move, exercise and strengthen the area surrounding their knee. A good physiotherapy routine also helps people find safer ways to manage their daily activities with less physical stress on the affected joint.  Exercise regimens taught in physiotherapy are proven in research  (Zhang WRobertson JJones AC) to be as helpful as anti- inflammatory medication, without the side effects.  Finally, physiotherapists are available to provide guidance and support throughout one’s treatment plan, making sure that they’re on track to achieve the best possible outcome.

If you have knee osteoarthritis, it’s important to be mindful of the activities and movements that can trigger pain and inflammation. Focusing on low-impact activities like light running, walking, swimming, weight lifting or biking are great. If you’re not sure which exercises are right for you, book an appointment with a Pure Form Physio Physiotherapist. This condition can be managed through in – person appointments or through on-line appointments, as education and exercise prescription are the main interventions.  Your physiotherapist will work with you to create a customized exercise plan that meets your needs and helps reduce your symptoms.


This appointment is your opportunity to tell us what hurts and discover whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care is a good fit for you! During this session, you will talk with a physiotherapist or chiropractor on a phone call (or online) and create the right care plan specifically for your pain. There is no obligation on this session is to find out whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care can help you getting back to doing the things you love in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Unfortunately, there is no cure for knee osteoarthritis. However, treatments are available to help manage the symptoms and slow down progression of the condition. With proper management and care, it is possible to reduce knee pain from knee osteoarthritis and improve overall function so you can enjoy your daily activities without too much discomfort.

Without appropriate treatment, knee osteoarthritis can cause progressive knee damage and disability. Pain may become more severe and frequent over time, leading to decreased mobility and quality of life.

When it comes to knee osteoarthritis, the average age of onset is 55-75 years old. This type of arthritis is more common among women than men, with studies suggesting that knee osteoarthritis is up to three times more prevalent in females. It can also occur in younger adults due to joint injury or excessive strain on the knee joint.

About Dan Sivertson

Pure Form Physio Langley Bc Physiotherapy Dan

Dan completed an exercise science degree prior to moving to Australia to complete his Physiotherapy (2001) and Master of Manual Therapy (2004) degrees. He later received his certification in IMS (intra muscular stimulation/dry needling). He wants to assist you in getting back up to speed as soon as possible, so you can get out and enjoy the outdoors. He enjoys working with elite and recreational athletes that like to push the boundaries of what they thought was possible and with non-athletes that want to improve their quality of life by moving and feeling better.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, treatment or a diagnosis, consult with a medical professional such as one suggested on this website. The Clinic Accelerator Inc. and the author of this page are not liable for the associated risks of using or acting upon the information contained in this article.

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