With winter on the horizon and temperatures dropping, I notice my patients increasingly complain of knee stiffness, arthritic pain flare-ups and needing longer time periods to recover from exercise.
So, do knees predict the weather?
There are many variables that play a part in joint health, which makes it difficult to elucidate the connection here, despite the abundance of anecdotal evidence that some knees can apparently predict the weather!
However there are some physiological factors that may explain this phenomenon…
- Reduced temperatures increase the viscosity of fluids within the tissues of the knee, thus reducing mobility.
- Changes in barometric pressure as well as temperature have also been theorised to affect knee function by causing expansion and contraction of the bone, cartilage and tendons. These tissues have different densities and therefore may expand and contract at different rates, causing discomfort and reduced biomechanical efficiency.
- Finally reduced activity levels during winter months play a significant role in joint health. Our bodies are built to move – even while we sleep we move regularly in order to decompress joints and avoid over-stressing any particular tissue. It’s particularly important to stay active through the winter months to stay supple.
What can I do to address my knee pain?
It goes without saying that staying active through regular gentle exercise and stretching will help maintain mobility. See our recent ‘Returning to exercise after lockdown’ and ‘DOMS’ blogs for more detail on this.
What about supplementation?
Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulphate are naturally occurring substances found in cartilage – the cushioning material within the knee.
Glucosamine is the primary component of proteoglycans – which give cartilage its ability to buffer compressive forces. Chondroitin sulphate compliments the function of glucosamine to support healthy cartilage growth and repair.
Studies have suggested that supplementation with these may have a protective effect for cartilage. Good news for achy knees!
How do they work?
Both glucosamine and chondroitin have anti-inflammatory properties and have been shown to be readily absorbed when taken orally. By increasing the availability of the building blocks of cartilage, the body is better able to repair itself.
Studies have shown supplementation with glucosamine and chondroitin may inhibit osteoarthritis related breakdown, reduce pain and potentially support cartilage regeneration.
A daily dosage of 1500mg of glucosamine and 1200mg of chondroitin is typically recommended and most supplements combine the two into a single pill, taken three times daily with meals – a convenient way to help support knee mobility.
The rate and degree to which they take effect does vary person to person, but studies have reported a reduction in pain to be felt from three to eight weeks, so it may be beneficial to keep a weekly log of mobility and painful symptoms to best assess if they’re right for you.
Are they safe?
Nutritional supplements aren’t subject to the same testing and regulations as prescription and non-prescription mediations, therefore if you have any preexisting conditions, or are taking any other medications you should always consult your GP before taking them.
This is particularly important if you are diabetic or taking blood thinners, as these supplements may affect your normal medication.
How can osteopathy, physiotherapy and sports massage help?
If you’re unsure about supplementation, then manual therapy is a safe and effective way to address knee pain and joint aches associated with the change of season.
We use a wide range of massage, articulation and mobilisation techniques, in addition to functional postural assessment and exercise provision, in order to keep you mobile and supple through the winter months!
Written by Joe Duff
If you’re experiencing seasonal joint pain and would like to find out more about how physiotherapy, osteopathy and massage can help give us a call on 02077356813, our team of experts will be available to answer all your questions.