Why Does Cold Weather Cause Knee Pain?

Maybe you’ve experienced or heard someone comment that the cold or damp weather is “making their knees ache.” Cold weather joint pain is a valid concern. Sometimes, cold weather brings on joint discomfort, pain, and stiffness, especially if you have arthritis or a specific knee injury. 

What Causes Knee Pain in Cold Weather?

There are several factors involved with the worsening of knee pain in cold temperatures. 

Change in barometric pressure: Barometric (atmospheric) pressure, in simple terms, is the weight of the air around you. The barometric pressure often falls right before the onset of cold weather. When it is cold and/or damp out, the changes in barometric pressure can cause an inflammatory response in the joints. The gases and fluids within the knee or other joint may expand. The additional pressure on the structures and the nerves can then lead to pain.

Heat conservation: Research suggests that in colder weather, the body will strive to conserve heat, and it will divert more of the blood to the vital organs, especially those in the center of the body, including the heart or the lungs. So when the blood is diverted elsewhere, the blood vessels in the extremities, including the arms, shoulders, legs, and knee joints, can narrow. With decreased blood flow, those areas become colder and stiffer, which can lead to discomfort and pain.

Inactivity in cold weather: People tend to be more inactive in colder or wetter weather. When people stay indoors more and are less physically active, the decrease in activity for longer periods is harmful to joint health.

It’s safe to say that barometric pressure can affect the knee joint, but humidity, precipitation, and temperature are also at play. That makes it a bit tricky for researchers to pinpoint what it is about the weather that causes some people more discomfort and pain when it’s cold, rainy, or humid outside.

What Knee Injuries or Conditions May Be Affected by Cold Weather?

Certain types of knee injuries may worsen during periods of colder temperatures. They include some of these:

Runner’s knee is pain around the kneecap caused by the pressure put on the knee joint during running activities. In colder weather, the tissues and muscles surrounding the knee become less lubricated and stiffen. When you run at your typical pace, you may experience sore and achy knees.

Knee trauma: The muscles around the knee need to work harder in colder temperatures than they would in warmer weather. This may put the joint in danger of more damage to the muscle tissues, leading to increased pain and soreness.

Jumper’s knee:   Also known as “patellar tendonitis,” this type of tissue injury can involve pain, weakness, and stiffness in the kneecap, thigh muscles, and shin bone. Cold weather makes tendons less pliable and reduces circulation, and may exacerbate this condition.

If you have these or other joint conditions, a knee doctor can help you with strategies for relieving pain and increasing mobility. If you’re experiencing knee problems, make an appointment today with a knee pain doctor in Frederick, MD, such as from the Pain & Spine Specialist of Maryland, LLC.