How Does Colder Weather Affect my Knee Injury?
If you have a knee injury, you may have noticed that your knee pain changes with the weather. Many people experience a flare-up of knee pain in the winter months.
What Causes Knee Pain in Cold Weather?
- Barometric pressure changes: Barometric pressure is the weight of the air around us. Barometric pressures often drop right before the onset of cold weather. This can cause gases and fluids within the joint to expand, putting pressure on the nerves that results in pain.
- Cold and humidity: A combination of cold and high levels of humidity can be harmful to cellular structures of the cartilage and bone.
- Hypersensitivity of nerves in the joint: In the case of a knee injury, the nerves in the knee joint can become overly sensitive to cold weather because of inflammation, scarring, or adhesions.
- Increased thickness of joint fluid: The fluid in the knee acts like a shock absorber, and in cold weather it may thicken. The increased thickness prevents the fluid from flowing freely, causing stiffness in the joints.
- Inactivity: Cold weather means people stay indoors more. Inactivity for long periods is harmful to joint health.
What Types of Knee Injuries Are at Risk for Causing Issues in Cold Weather?
You may find that pain increases during colder temperatures with certain types of knee injuries.
Runner's knee: This is a condition that’s caused by the pressure put on the knee joint during running. The downward pressure on the knee joint causes the kneecap to rub against the thigh bone, causing cartilage damage.
In colder weather, your heart rate has a slower response rate, which can cause the tissues and muscles that surround the knee to become less lubricated and stiffer. If you then try to run at your normal pace or harder, you can experience sore and achy knees.
Trauma to the knee: If your injury involved muscles around the knee, in colder temperatures your muscles have to work harder than they would in warmer weather to complete the same tasks. This may result in more damage to the muscle tissues, which causes increased pain and soreness.
Patellar tendonitis: Also known as jumper’s knee, this type of tissue injury happens between the kneecap and thigh muscles to the shin bone. This causes knee pain right below the kneecap. It also causes knee weakness and stiffness especially when jumping, kneeling, or climbing stairs. Cold weather makes tendons stiffer and reduces circulation, which can worsen jumper’s knee pain.
Strategies for Knee Joint Pain Relief in Cold Weather
You can help reduce knee injury pain and stiffness when the temperatures drop. Here are some things you can do at home to relieve joint pain:
- Keep warm: When it’s cold outside, try to keep yourself warm. When you’re inside, take warm showers or baths, sleep under an electric blanket, and keep the heat up. When you’re outside, heat up the car before you get in, and dress in layers to stay warm.
- Prevent swelling: Knee compression bands can help reduce swelling and improve stability in the knee.
- Keep a healthy weight and stay active.
If you’re experiencing knee pain, make an appointment today with one of our NY Orthopedics locations in NYC. Our “Centers of Excellence” offer top-level orthopedic treatment for knees and other joints, all in one location.