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Arthritis in the Knee Can Ebb and Flow With Seasons

Painful swelling comes with big temperature swings, experts say

SUNDAY, Oct. 12, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Face it, no season of the year is good for arthritis of the knee.

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, is caused by the deterioration of the cartilage at the end of the knee bones where they join in the knee joint. Without the cushioning of the cartilage, the bones rub against each other and cause pain and inflammation of the joint, says Dr. David Halsey, an orthopedic surgeon.

"The pain seems to be cyclical and related to the weather," he says. "The wide changes in barometric pressure in the spring and fall can cause an inflamed joint to swell, causing pain and stiffness."

Cold winter weather can also make the joints feel stiffer than usual, according to the National Arthritis Association.

However, you shouldn't let a fear of pain keep you from your activities. Mild exercise can reduce your discomfort, but be sure to stretch beforehand, wear layered clothing and stay warm. It's also important to keep well-hydrated, Halsey adds.

Smoking, drinking caffeine and not drinking enough water, he says, "will make you more susceptible to injury."

The arthritis association also emphasizes the importance of exercise for your knee. If you can't participate in your normal outdoor exercises, find something to do indoors, such as swimming or yoga.

Other tips from the association include taking a warm bath every evening before bedtime and sticking with your medication. The winter lull might be a good time to check with your doctor to make sure you're taking advantage of any new, more effective medications.

More information

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases has an illustrated explanation of what arthritis is and its causes.

SOURCES: David Halsey, M.D., associate clinical professor, orthopedic surgery, Dartmouth Medical School, Hanover, N.H.; National Arthritis Association; The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
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