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As winter approaches, so does colder weather. Many individuals have reported that cold weather brings out the worst of their knee pain; but why? There are several ways that the cold can contribute to pain in the knee joint.

Sports-related Knee Injuries Are Prone to the Effects of the Cold

Have you ever noticed that a knee injury will begin to ache as the weather gets colder? This is because the cold, specifically the pressure changes associated, can aggravate the tissue surrounding the previously injured joint. Knee injuries susceptible to cold weather irritation include can trauma, patellar tendonitis and runner’s knee. The cold temperature tends to inspire added knee pain. The tissue around the knee will expand, and although it may be a microscopic change, it is enough to cause pain in the knee joint.

Barometric Pressure and Cold Weather

Cold weather causes a drop in the barometric pressure or atmospheric pressure. When barometric pressure changes, it can have significant effects on all of your joints.
Lowered barometric pressure will cause the tissue in your joints to expand causing pain or discomfort.

Exposed Nerve Endings in Cold Weather

Cartilage is a smooth cushion between the bones in your joints that acts as a shock absorber, protecting your bones from damage. Over time, the cartilage will become thinner due to continued wear and tear; this is especially common in the knee joint. Thinning of this cartilage can potentially expose nerve endings. Exposed nerve endings are particularly sensitive to cold weather and pressure changes, resulting in increased pain within your knee joint.

Joint Fluid in Cold Weather

Synovial fluid is a thick, gel-like fluid within all of your joints, including the knee, lubricating them to move with ease. When colder temperatures begin, this fluid will become more viscous impacting its free-flowing ability. This reduces the mobility of the knee joint, contributes to joint stiffness, and increases pain or discomfort in the knee.

Inactivity during Cold Weather

As temperatures drop, the motivation to get up and exercise can be diminished. It is so easy to bundle up by the fire, but it is important to stay active throughout the winter months. Lack of movement and exercise will lead to weakening of the muscles in your knee, providing less support to your knee joint. This lack of support will contribute to joint instability and pain in your knee.

Colder temps are coming soon to our desert climate, and they can impact your knee pain or aggravate a sports injury. Make plans to keep active this winter to maintain good joint health.

Dr. Anup Shah is a board-certified, fellowship-trained sports medicine orthopedic surgeon specializing in Knee and Shoulder Surgery in Phoenix, Arizona at Banner Health. Dr. Shah uses a patient-centric and an evidence-based approach to help his patients achieve their desired goals.

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