With temperatures already in the 40s and 50s in Horry County, many of you may be finding yourselves facing an ongoing annoyance- knee pain. Whether you suffer from chronic joint issues or occasional discomfort, cold weather can exacerbate these problems. CMC Orthopaedics is helping you understand why cold weather affects your knees and joints and is offering strategies for pain management during the winter months.
Understanding the Impact of Cold Weather on Knee Pain
During late fall and winter, joint pain complaints become more frequent than in other seasons of the year. The correlation between cold weather and increased knee pain has been a recurring concern for many with orthopedic issues. The drop in temperature and changes in barometric pressure can affect the pain receptors in the body, particularly in the knees. This impact can lead to increased discomfort, stiffness, and reduced mobility, making day-to-day activities challenging for those affected.
When the temperature decreases, the soft tissues surrounding the knee joint constrict, reducing flexibility and increasing tension. Additionally, cold weather causes a drop in barometric and atmospheric pressure which can cause expansion and contraction of your tendons, leading to heightened pain sensitivity.
If the cartilage in your knee (the cushion) has thinned over time due to wear and tear, it can potentially expose nerve endings that could be very sensitive to cold weather and pressure changes. There is also a lubricating fluid, called synovial fluid, in your knee that helps the joint move. When temperatures are colder, this fluid becomes thicker impacting the free movement of your knee and making mobility stiffer and more difficult.
These physical reactions are often attributed to the increased discomfort experienced by individuals with knee problems during cold weather. Not to mention, there are a variety of pre-existing sports-related injuries that can be irritated by the cold, including patellar tendonitis, runner’s knee, and other trauma.
Prevention Strategies for Cold Weather-Related Knee Pain
While you can’t control the weather, there are some steps you can take to help mitigate feelings of pain and discomfort in your joints, including:
Keep Your Knee Joints Warm
Consistent warmth can also aid in maintaining flexibility and reducing stiffness. Wearing appropriate clothing, such as knee sleeves or thermal leggings can help retain heat and reduce the impact of cold weather on knee pain. Make sure you dress in layers and have gloves, warm socks, a coat suited to the weather, and a winter hat to keep you warm when you must travel out into the icy cold.
Do Warm-up Exercises
Take five minutes for dynamic movements prior to any physical activity. Warm-up exercises boost your cardiovascular system by increasing blood flow to your muscles and raising your body temperature. Warming up before exercising also reduces joint stiffness and prevents joint injuries.
Engage in Low-Impact Exercises
Participating in regular low-impact exercises, such as swimming or cycling, can help strengthen the muscles around the knees, offering better support and reducing the likelihood of pain during cold weather.
If you are a runner, don’t stop running suddenly. Walking is your friend. When you need to take a break from running, keep walking so your knee joints won’t get cold and start to hurt. If you need to, substitute running totally with walking to maintain a rhythm and motivation and avoid joint stiffness.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess body weight can put additional pressure on the knees, exacerbating any existing pain. By maintaining a healthy weight, you can reduce the strain on your knees and minimize the impact of cold weather. If you have struggled with your weight, CMC Weight Loss may have some new solutions to help you.
Stay Indoors on Very Cold Days
Whether working out or engaging in other activities, choose things that you can do indoors when the winter weather is most fierce. Rather than going out to run on snow-covered pavement, get on your treadmill for a 20-minute cardio workout. When you’re at work, bring extra layers if your workspace environment is on the colder side and you feel your joints acting up. Take a warm shower or bath when you get home.
Treatment Methods for Cold Weather-Related Knee Pain
Apply Heat Therapy
Using a heating pad or warm compress on the affected knee can help alleviate discomfort and improve flexibility. Heat therapy can also increase blood flow to the area, promoting healing and reducing pain.
Utilize Anti-Inflammatory Medications
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, can help reduce swelling and alleviate pain associated with cold weather-related knee discomfort. Some orthopedic physicians even recommend Turmeric capsules as a natural anti-inflammatory treatment. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before using any medication.
Consider Physical Therapy
Engaging in targeted physical therapy sessions can help individuals with knee pain build strength, improve flexibility, and learn effective pain management techniques, reducing the impact of cold weather on their condition.
When to Consult an Orthopedic Doctor
For some, winter weather-related joint pain is a minor annoyance they can deal with. For others, it can make walking, performing chores, and other everyday activities feel unbearable. If you fall into the latter group, you should explore your treatment options with a physician who is experienced in these matters.
The physicians at CMC Orthopaedics have years of experience working with local Horry residents to overcome joint pain and discomfort. Plus, if you ever need to find an orthopedic surgeon near you, our practice features some of the most experienced doctors in the area, specializing in arthroscopic surgery and joint replacement surgery.
The best way to get started on your path to joint pain relief is by scheduling a consultation with one of our physicians at CMC Orthopaedics. We have two convenient locations in Conway and the Socastee area of Myrtle Beach. During your initial appointment, our team will collect some medical background information, examine your affected joints, and order any necessary tests, such as an X-ray or an MRI.
After your physician determines the root cause of your joint pain, they will put you on an individualized treatment plan that prioritizes pain management and the relief of your symptoms. Call our office today at 843-347-8041 or use our convenient online appointment request form. We are looking forward to helping you!