Many of us with knee injuries and strains will have noticed that the pain can be worse when it’s cold outside. The winter season is not only a time to be extra careful to prevent injury, but a time when preexisting conditions can become more inflamed and more painful, but why?
Causes of Cold Weather Knee Pain
- Barometric Pressure: This is the air pressure around us. In the winter, the air pressure drops. When this happens, the muscles, tendons and scar tissue in our joints expand and contract, which can put pressure on our nerves. This can cause pain or make preexisting pain even worse.
- Hypersensitivity of nerves: Inflammation, scarring and adhesions from knee injuries and arthritis can make the nerves extra sensitive. Low temperatures can more easily agitate these nerves and cause us much pain.
- High humidity: A 2015 study found that joint pain increases in people with osteoarthritis when cold temperatures are combined with high humidity. However, experts still aren’t sure why this is the case.
- Decreased physical activity: When it’s cold outside, people tend to be less physically active, leaving the house less and taking the car more often. Longer periods of inactivity can make our joints stiff and painful. It can also increase the thickness of the synovial joint fluid, making our joints stiffer.
- Mood changes: Some people’s mood is negatively affected when cold, wet, and dark weather invades. A negative mood can make our perception of pain worse.
- Decreased vitamin D: We get most of our vitamin D from the sun, getting much less in the winter. Vitamin D wards off soft bones (osteomalacia) and loss of bone mass (osteoporosis). Several studies have found that a vitamin D deficiency can increase joint pain. The good news is that vitamin D3 supplements are readily available.
Warm showers, electric blankets and heating systems can all help to decrease our pain. However, it’s important to stay physically active, even if you do it from the comfort of your own home. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen can help to reduce joint pain and inflammation. Compression bands or knee braces can also help to support the knee and reduce swelling.
If you suffer from any form of knee pain or joint stiffness, contact Dr. Frederick F. Buechel MD, a world-renowned orthopedic knee surgeon. Click here to schedule a virtual consultation or call us directly at (212) 308-3089.