Cold-Weather Knee Pain

January 1, 2023 by Lazer Brody

Don’t let that discomfort in your knees ruin your good mood. If you haven’t suffered an injury, and one or both knees began hurting during normal walking or stair-climbing, the chances are that your knees are simply reacting to the cold weather or to a cold virus.

The Cold-Weather Culprit

For many people, especially seniors and those who suffer or have suffered from arthritis or knee injuries, dropping temperatures mean rising knee pain. Here’s why:

Barometric Pressure

Cold fronts usually mean dropping barometric pressure. The lower the air pressure, the less pressure on tendons and joints. They therefore swell and lead to pain. That’s why a person with arthritis or an old joint injury can tell you that a storm or a cold front is on the way. He or she feels it in the joints, especially the knees.

Synovial Fluid

The fluid that lubricates and cushions our joints is called synovial fluid. Synovial fluid gets thicker in cold weather, causing pain and stiffness, especially in the knees.

Blood Circulation

During cold weather, the cardiovascular system must make a special effort to keep the vital organs, such as the heart, lungs, liver and brain warm. It therefore reroutes a portion of blood from the arms and legs to the vital organs. Knee joints are less warm than they prefer to be, which results in pain and discomfort.


Muscles tighten in cold weather. The quadriceps and glutes are the body’s biggest muscles. When they are tight, knees suffer discomfort in movement. Why? Tight muscles cause stiff and unnatural movement. The knees compensate for the less than optimal movement pattern and suffer pain.

Lifestyle Changes

Cold-weather lifestyle often means less outdoors, less exercise and less Vitamin D from the sun. These factors, together with winter gloom, can certainly trigger knee pain. I experienced this phenomenon from just one long weekend away from warm and sunny Israel while visiting cold, wet and cloudy Manchester, UK.

How to Feel Better

You don’t need scientific research to tell you that you have pain or feel better. Here’s what to do to alleviate the cold-weather knee pain.

Wear Warm Clothes

Going outside in cold weather? Put on your thick tights or long johns. Keep your knees warm.

Exercise and Warmup

Most people become alarmed and halt movement when they feel pain. If your knees are normally pain-free, but they hurt in the cold weather, keep them moving! Exercise adds warmth to the body. But, never exercise without doing a 2-5 minute warmup. The warmup is vital for preventing injury. Walking is always wonderful. Swimming, Pilates and Yoga also contribute to flexibility and pain-free joints.

Watch Your Diet and Weight

Stay away from sugar! It is inflammatory public enemy #1 that triggers knee pain. White sugar and white flour are empty calories that add weight to the body, which puts pressure on the knees. Contrary to added body fat, increased muscle mass – especially in the glutes, quads and hamstrings – actually makes the knees stronger.

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Choose the shoes that your ankles and knees love best. Feeling healthy will make you much happier than looking stylish.

When in Doubt

If you don’t know weather your pain is chronic or cold-weather caused, consult a reliable physical therapist or physician. In any event, may the Almighty bless you with a very healthy winter!

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