UMMS Affiliation

Department of Orthopedics and Physical Rehabilitation

Publication Date


Document Type



Biomechanics | Exercise Science | Musculoskeletal Diseases | Musculoskeletal, Neural, and Ocular Physiology | Orthopedics | Pathological Conditions, Signs and Symptoms


BACKGROUND: Exercise-induced pain flares represent a significant barrier for individuals with knee osteoarthritis to meet physical activity recommendations. There is a need to understand factors that contribute to pain flares and the potential for the motor system to adapt and reduce joint loading should a flare occur. The study aim was to examine the impact of a bout of exercise on self-reported pain, walking mechanics and muscle co-contraction for participants with knee osteoarthritis.

METHODS: Thirty-six adults (17 healthy older and 19 knee osteoarthritis) participated in this study. Self-reported pain, joint mechanics and muscle co-activation during gait at two self-selected speeds were collected before and after a 20-min preferred pace treadmill walk (20MTW).

RESULTS: Eight of nineteen osteoarthritis participants had a clinically significant pain flare response to the 20MTW. At baseline the participants that did not experience a pain flare had smaller knee flexion and total reaction moments compared to both the participants with pain flares (p = 0.02; p = 0.05) and controls (p < 0.001; p < 0.001). In addition, the 2nd peak knee adduction (p = 0.01) and internal rotation (p = 0.001) moments were smaller in the no flares as compared to controls. The pain flare participants differed from controls with smaller knee internal rotation moments (p = 0.03), but greater relative hamstrings (vs. quadriceps) and medial (vs. lateral) muscle activation (p = 0.04, p = 0.04) compared to both controls and no flare participants (p = 0.04, p = 0.007). Following the 20MTW there were greater decreases in the 1st and 2nd peak knee adduction (p = 0.03; p = 0.02), and internal rotation (p = 0.002) moments for the pain flare as compared to the no flare group. In addition, for the pain flare as compared to controls, greater decreases in the knee flexion (p = 0.03) and internal rotation (p = 0.005) moments were found.

CONCLUSIONS: Individuals who adapt their gait to reduce knee joint loads may be less susceptible to exercise-induced pain flares. This highlights a potential role of gait biomechanics in short-term osteoarthritis pain fluctuations. The results also suggest that despite the chronic nature of osteoarthritis pain, the motor system's ability to respond to nociceptive stimuli remains intact.


Exercise induced pain flare, muscle activation, Gait mechanics, Knee osteoarthritis

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© The Author(s). 2019 Open Access: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

DOI of Published Version



BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2019 Mar 14;20(1):107. doi: 10.1186/s12891-019-2493-4. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

BMC musculoskeletal disorders

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.