Should You Exercise with Gout Inflammation?

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 1/11/2018

Ask the experts

My mother is suffering from gout in both her knees. She doesn't want to exercise because it hurts. Isn't exercise a great way to break up the crystals in her knees where the gout is concentrated?

Doctor's response

When gout is actively causing inflammation in a joint (arthritis), all efforts should be directed toward eradicating the inflammation. This generally means resting the joint, ice/cold applications, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Exercising a joint that is already inflamed can prolong the inflammation and cause more pain. Gently moving the joint through its range of motion can sometimes prevent stiffness.

After the inflammation of the joint has quieted down, gradual exercise is often encouraged to re-establish strength and movement of the muscles around the joint.

Exercise has no benefit or effect on breaking up tiny crystals of gout (monosodium urate crystals) in the joints. These tiny (microscopic) crystals are only as long as a white blood cell is wide. They dissolve (disappear) and form according to the body's metabolism (processing of substances), state of hydration (amount of water), and in response to medications that influence the uric acid level in the blood.

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Reviewed on 1/11/2018