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Managing your knee pain this Winter
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2014 12:35 pm 
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Winter nights are drawing in and you may start to feel the familiar aches and pains in your knees that colder weather brings. Did you know that the most recognised theory for explaining these aches is that the nerve endings in our joints become hypersensitive when cold and cause us to experience pain more intensely? There are other theories, for example, that barometric pressure can affect knee pain in Winter, but the results from studies are inconclusive. Luckily, whatever the cause, there are some simple steps you can take to manage your knee pain this Winter. We asked Chris Miles from AposTherapy for some of his top tips.

Why heat helps knee pain

Using heat and warmth on arthritic, aching joints is something many people find comforting and relaxing, but what, precisely, is so soothing about heat?

Studies have shown that warmth, when applied to painful areas of the body, stimulates your sensory receptors to block the transmission of pain signals to the brain as if transmitting the message of warmth is given priority over pain. It has been show that heat of more than 40 degrees Celsius, applied to the skin close to the area where pain is being felt, can switch on heat receptors and in turn, blocks the body’s ability to detect pain. It is therefore useful to apply heat to your painful knees at that temperature or higher, depending on what is comfortable and being careful not to use something so hot it burns.

Ways to keep your knees warm this Winter

Wrap up warm: Chris explains, ‘keeping the knees covered if you are going out reduces the pain experienced in the joints, so get those long johns on!’ Thermal tights are also a great option for ladies who want to get dressed up during the festive season.

Apply a heat pack: a hot water bottle or microwaveable heat pack, wrapped in a towel and applied to the knee can provide instant pain relief. Chris suggests, ‘Using it for 10-15 minutes and repeating this a few times a day to bring the best results.’

Head to the sauna or steam room: if you’re a member of a gym or spa, the sauna and steam room can not only be a great way to relax, the intense heat can be deeply warming for aching knees, giving your body a break from the relentless, British Winter.

Warm baths: in the same way as saunas and steam rooms, Chris suggests, ‘a nice, warm bath, which can help relax the muscles around the knees and reduce stiffness felt in the joints.’

Use heat before and after exercise for 15 minutes: if you are active, which is helpful for the management of knee pain and arthritic conditions, applying some heat to the affected joint before and after exercise has been shown to make exercise less painful and the joints more supple.

Stay active, but get enough rest too

Being active on a regular basis, despite the shorter and colder days, is crucial for not only managing knee pain in Winter, but also preventing it. Chris explains, ‘Walking and staying active will naturally keep your body temperature higher and improve circulation to the knees. The movement also keeps the joints supple and therefore reduces the stiffness that you may experience after prolonged periods of rest.’

One way to stay active in Winter is to exercise indoors. Online you’ll find plenty of free exercise programmes you can do without any equipment. Alternatively, you could invest in a stationary bike or elliptical trainer, which is lower impact on the knees than running on a treadmill. That being said, it’s important not to overdo it, to ensure you don’t put too much stress on the knees at any one time. Spreading activity throughout the day, with rests in between is ideal.

In addition to these tips, a gentle massage of the muscles surrounding the knee for 5-10 minutes can also be a great way to relieve pain. So, whilst we can’t improve the British weather, we can provide you with all the information you need to manage your knee pain this Winter, allowing you to look forward to a fun and pain free Christmas and New Year!


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