I donâ€™t know about you, but my knee has been killing me over the past few weeks. Iâ€™ve had a couple surgeries on my right knee (ACL reconstruction/Spring 1994, meniscus clean-up/Summer 1996) and it often pops, clicks and swells up on occasion. Some say that certain types of weather patterns can influence joint pain and that periods of low pressure (storms) can cause swelling and achiness. But, from my experience, itâ€™s the long-term high pressure stints that really bring me to my knees when it comes to knee pain.
From a theoretical stand point, it kind of makes sense that a low barometric pressure might cause knee pain. Less overall pressure on the body and joints could mean that there is more opportunity for excess fluids to flow into the joint, which in-turn may cause some swelling and pain. Baro-receptors in our blood vesselsÂ can also sense this change in weather and tend to react a bit more when there is low atmospheric pressure, sending more fluid to the areas in question, and folks with arthritis can often feel this due to the decreased amount of cartilage that allow for cushioning.
As skiers though, we often pray for massive dumps and blizzards that cause the barometric scale to bottom out. Deep low pressure systems mean powder turns with lots and lots of soft fluffy snow to provide the cushioning to our knees that may be lacking cartilage, mainly relating to the meniscus. For backcountry skiers, breaking trail through deeper snow might cause a bit more pain to our knees, especially with constant high-stepping and lifting the weight of our fat powder skis. But, in the long-run, I find that a soft descent can often off-set any extra torque on my knees that I may incur from breaking trail through the deep stuff.
For me, long term periods of high-pressure seem to bring more pain to my knees. However, itâ€™s not the actual atmospheric pressure that affects this, but more the snow conditions that are a result of days and weeks with zero measurable snowfall. Lack of fresh snow can often mean less powder, and less powder means firmer snow, and firmer snow means less available cushioning for our cartilage lacking knees. Add in some sun and warmer temps, and breakable snow-crusts become another factor that can provide increased torque on our knees, not to mention the refrozen corn snow and chunder that feels like you are skiing on a coral reef and have your knees begging you to search for some softer snow. An overall lack of snow can also add to the mix, since obstacles like stumps, dead-fall and boulders that would typically be covered up, are still exposed and make us turn more and more and moreâ€¦sometimes, quite awkwardly.
Luckily (at least for us JHâ€™ers), it appears that the long term high pressure that has dominated our region for that last month or so is a thing of the past, and Ullr has returned to provide some more fresh powder to ease the pain in our decrepit knees. Now, if we can all survive the avalanche danger that is coming along with it, we should be sitting pretty.