“Tis the Season to be Jolly “so the saying goes, but for many this also brings “Seasonal Creakings” of any troublesome Knee Joints.
Hopefully this will help with understanding the question, “Why does my Knee hurt more in Winter?” alongside advice on good management will make Christmas more Sparkle and less Crackle!
One commonly seen condition is Osteoarthritis of the Knee. This is a condition that causes roughening and thinning of the articular cartilage that lines the bones and acts as a protective layer over the bone ends. This creates friction within the joint, where none should exist and that typical “creaking” noise often noted when the Knee undergoes flare up.
Symptoms of Osteoarthritic (OA) Knee can include;
• Pain (often over the inner Knee)
• Stiffness of the Knee (especially first thing or after periods of rest)
• A grating or grinding sensation (crepitis) when the Knee is moving
• Swelling (can be hard or soft)
• Thigh Muscle (Quadriceps muscle) weakness or wasting
• Knee giving way or “letting you down” feeling
• Pain on Kneeling
• Difficulty with functional activities eg ascending or often worse, descending stairs
Science has not fully explained why cold weather can exacerbate arthritis joint pain and stiffness but there are some possible explanations.
There is a saying in the Physiotherapy world, that “Joints Never Forgive, And Never Forget!”. Which simply means old injuries will come back to “haunt you” as Osteo-arthritis many years later.
A fall in barometric pressure which occurs as a cold front approaches, causes the Knee joint to expand which may result in pain, essentially the Joint acts like a Barometer! Which is why Grandma knew it was going to rain!
Lower temperatures also thickens the Synovial fluid within the joint (this is fluid that lubricates and nourishes the joint). This will make the Joint stiffer and more sensitive to pain.
Studies have also shown that Cold weather lowers the release of the body’s own natural anti-inflammatory hormone (Cortisol) and makes joints more prone to tissue damage and nerve irritation from excessive inflammation.
The Flu season can also cause issues, as viral infections can create an over active immune response in some types of Arthritis (ie Rheumatoid Arthritis) and this ends up attacking your body, instead of the virus.. so, make sure you have your Flu / Covid vaccine!!
SAS Tips for Coping with Arthritis in Cold Weather;
1. Keep Active; following a simple but daily exercise regime can help fight these “seasonal creaking” as exercise helps ease pain, increase joint flexibility and strengthens the muscles that protect the vulnerable joints.
2. Take a daily walk of 20-40 mins. Walking is a Low impact activity and proven to promote many health benefits.
3. Keep the area warm, dress in layers which helps trap heat better
4. Have your Flu jab.
5. Avoid Vitamin D deficiency as this increases sensitivity to Pain. There is less natural sun light in winter which lowers Vitamin D production. Eat Vitamin D rich foods such as oily fish, and drink fortified juices / milk and breakfast cereals.
6. Refer to the SAS website for further Advice on Knee exercises to help keep the muscles strong to protect affected Joints.
7. Seek further Help via our Nursing Team working closely with our Lead Physiotherapist and In House Personal trainer team
Support from Ask Mike is available for staff insured complementary on SAS staff absence insurance policies. Contact the wellbeing team to learn more or access a physiotherapy referral on 01773 814 403 or email firstname.lastname@example.org