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Knee Pain: How Cold Weather Affects Joints

Knee Pain: How Cold Weather Affects Joints
Knee pain is one of the worst types of pain that significantly affects routine movement. In the winter season, knee pain can sometimes aggravate to an unbearable extent disturbing the quality of life.

Cold Weather and Knee Pain

Atmospheric Pressure Variations.  Atmospheric pressure changes can significantly affect the body's natural gases and fluids. The fluids and gases that occur in spaces between knee joints tend to expand with barometric/air pressure changes in the environment. This expansion results in increased pressure on nerves causing inflammation and pain in knee joints.
Humidity Levels.  Cold weather can damage the complex cellular network that is a fundamental component of cartilage and bone. This damage can aggravate pain episodes.
Increased Sensitivity of Nerves.  Due to cold temperatures in winter, nerves around the knees may become hypersensitive that can cause mild to moderate pain and inflammation in knee joints. The condition can aggravate the formation of abrasions, scars, and adhesions if knee injury occurs.
Enhanced Viscosity of the Joint Fluid.  The fluid present naturally in the spaces in the knee joint behaves like a shock absorber and prevents friction between the bone bones allowing pain-free movement of the knee joint. Cold winters tend to increase the viscosity or thickness of joint fluid leading to stiffness and pain in knee joints.
Decreased Physical Activity.  Cold weather also affects lifestyle, preventing adequate outdoor or physical activity. A prolonged sedentary lifestyle can cause chronic damage, especially in knee joints.
Risks of Knee Injuries in Winters.  Knee injuries in winter (slip and falls or twisting of the joint) can aggravate any knee pain and inflammation.
Traumatic Knee.  Body muscles are sensitive to temperatures, and their efficiency decreases in cold temperatures posing extra stress on muscles around knees. That's why injury to knee associated muscle tissues in winters can increase the knee pain that may also prolong the healing process.
Runner's Knee.  It is a knee condition involving dull pain and occurs mostly during running or jogging. Improper balance and rapid change in knee direction during running are culprits for this condition. Besides this, cold temperatures tend to decrease the reaction time of muscles around knees that are involved in swift knee movements during running. This change increases the risk of cartilage damage around knee cap resulting in painful and sore knee joints.
Jumper's Knee.  Jumper's knee or Patellar tendonitis is a condition in which damage to the patellar tendon that connects the base of the patella (kneecap) with the thigh or shin bone. Jumpers knee is characterized by pain and inflammation radiating from the back to the front portion of the kneecap. It is also associated with the stiffening of knee muscles rendering weakness of knee muscles due to overuse. Symptoms can aggravate, primarily due to jumping, using stairs, or kneeling. In winters, reduced blood flow may render increased stiffness of tendons, thus aggravating knee pain.

Management of Knee Joint Pain in Winters

Fortunately, knee pain can be effectively managed during the winter season, preventing the pain allows routine life activities.
Stay Warm.  Taking care of the body and especially knees are essential during winters, providing sufficient warm clothing while outside can give cover and warmth against harsh weather. Adjusting indoor temperature and car temperature can be beneficial. The body is most prone to cold during resting or sleeping; hence use blankets, heated pillows, and electric blankets while sleeping.
Avoid Knee Swelling.  Cold weather is commonly associated with swelling of joints and muscles. Using special knee compresses/bands can help alleviate knee swelling and allow daily life activities.

If knee pain causes trouble in doing small tasks or movements, consult with a doctor.  For more information on how to deal with knee pain in the winter, contact Dr. Dan Albright at (919)863-6808
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