How can I keep my knees warm this winter?
September 25, 2013 12:00 AM   Subscribe

I have a weird problem: my knees get really cold, really easily. I live in LA, and even in the middle of this unusually warm summer, the slight temperature drop at night is enough that by morning my knees are freezing and I have to put on warm sweat pants (much to the bewilderment of my wife, it being the middle of summer, and us not having AC).

As you can imagine, this problem only gets worse in the winter. Obviously, I bundle up appropriately when it's cold. Other than my knees, I have no trouble keeping warm. I've asked MeFi what to wear under jeans before, with the consensus being flannel-lined jeans, real wool, and real silk.

However, since I live in LA, the mild winters make it easy to get overheated with too much on. The only thing I really want to keep warm are my knees. They get so cold!

I've sewn insulating fabric into the knee one pair of jeans, and it helped, but made them useless for summer. I've purchased these acrylic knee warmers, but they slide off or bunch up and generally aren't that great. I'm hoping MetaFilter has a solution for me that is convenient, practical, and not too pricey.
posted by brenton to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Can you use sock garters with the knee warmers? Possibly better knee warmers would be good, too--if you know anyone who knits, they might be willing to make you a pair. Ribbed knee warmers might still require garters or a band of sewn-in elastic, but they would almost certainly be better than the ones your purchased. If you go this route, merino sock yarn would probably be ideal for this purpose, though it still requires that someone make them. Etsy or similar might be of use.

Alternatively, a fabric or elastic knee support might work--I've used them before with an injury, and couldn't stand to wear them because my knees got unbearably hot. Didn't work for me, but might be just what you're looking for.
posted by MeghanC at 12:31 AM on September 25, 2013

I don't mean to derail, or unduly alarm you... but have you ever asked a doctor about this? If your knees are ice cold in the middle of an LA summer, it makes me wonder if you've got a circulation problem or something.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:58 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hm, I haven't asked a doctor. I've been this way my whole life, so it doesn't concern me much, though I probably should mention it the next time I have a checkup. I always just assumed that it's because I'm thin (or, as my wife puts it when trying to cuddle: sharp).
posted by brenton at 1:23 AM on September 25, 2013

Smart wool makes kneewarmers.
posted by brujita at 1:44 AM on September 25, 2013

A doctor isn't a bad idea. Neither is this arguably unpopular subject on the green: acupuncture. My experience is limited, but positive. If you can even just a tiny bit embrace the idea of qi/chi/energy flowing through your body and that maybe there's some sort of related issue behind your oddly cold knees, it might be worth asking around for a local recommendation.

I'm betting an experienced practitioner has something to say about this. Worth a try! Most insurance covers it. And if you like it, Community Acupuncture runs around $30 after the initial visit.

FWIW I went once for tennis elbow. First treatment, the pain went away 90%. Second, it disappeared for good. Yes tennis elbow is a different animal. Mr Origami went for something unrelated and, during a bit of bodywork, was asked, "do your kidneys always feel so cold?" It was a discomfort he'd been used to for years. She suggested an Ayurvedic approach to his diet and, when he consciously sticks to it, his kidneys are warm.

Just anecdotes, but whatever works! Two thousand years in practical use says something. If this raises your curiosity at all, go satisfy it.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 2:57 AM on September 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

An interesting collection of posts from the cold knee camp.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 3:08 AM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm fat but my knees get cold, too. If your hands and feet are warm, it's not a circulation issue. I had my thyroid out for cancer (unrelated to my cold knees, temporally) and take thyroid hormone and am monitored, so I know my thyroid levels are perfect. I think it's just there's no adipose tissue there to insulate them. I have no solution (although at night I will put my warm foot against one knee and my warm hands against the other.) Long shorts and very lightweight everything else, maybe?
posted by gingerest at 3:25 AM on September 25, 2013

Unusually warm summer in LA? I don't think so.
posted by Dansaman at 8:27 AM on September 25, 2013

Sock glue to keep the knee warmers in place, maybe?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:58 AM on September 25, 2013

Also, this may be totally unworkable due to the relative configuration of you, your wife, your blankets, and whatever else may be in bed with you, but maybe a small throw or a baby blanket folded into a comfortable-sized band over your knees and under your regular blankets might do the trick. Your toss:turn ratio may come into play as well.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:02 AM on September 25, 2013

I don't have cold knees, but I have had some knee problems. To help them I've purchased those stretchy neoprene supports you can usually find at a drugstore for about $20 or so. I get the ones I can adjust (somewhat) with velcro. My knees have been sweating under those things all summer!
posted by bessiemae at 3:41 PM on September 25, 2013

The MedHelp thread linked by AnOrigamiLife is fascinating reading. The major theme there appears to be thyroid problems with a side of air travel:
Me too! From about mid thigh to mid calf including my knees I am always cold! The odd part is I run hot everywhere else! I have been told by my OD that I have an overactive thyroid. So I place my very warm hands on my very cold knees. Sometimes a little massage will help. I do have very swollen and painfull knees as well. This cold knees thing is new though and only adds to the stiffness and pain in my knees.
This just started happening to me this year and I'm only 25. They seem to get coldest when I get sleepy. I usualy don't even notice that they're cold until i touch them with my hands. When I'm warming them up sometimes it feels almost as if icecubes were under the skin. I have hyperthyroid but I'm on medication for it.
Hi, I just wanted to add my experience to yours to let you know there are more people out there with these symptoms. I first experienced cold knees a couple of months ago when I took a long plane flight. The temperature inside the plane was very cold and everyone had many blankets on. The feeling of coldness has not left me since - but only in the knees!
My doctor has never heard of it in 30 years in the profession and I have recently had blood tests because I have a thyroid condition but he says there is nothing unusual there.
I'm a 33 y.o. female - suffering from the cold knee/ankle pains since I can remember! As a child I literally had to cry myself to sleep rubbing my knees
I've always been skinny (never malnourished), very active kid with ice cold hands and feet. So poor circulation from the start and I do believe it is somehow genetically passes. No control over that.
I think there are theoretical grounds to think that hyperthyroidism might tend to cause swollen joints-- crudely, hyperthyroid causes CSF pressure to increase and cerebospinal fluid and the fluid in joints are generated by very similar mechanisms-- and that the tendency could be compensated for by reducing the blood supply to affected joints and thereby causing those joints to feel cold.

Hm, I haven't asked a doctor. I've been this way my whole life, so it doesn't concern me much, though I probably should mention it the next time I have a checkup. I always just assumed that it's because I'm thin (or, as my wife puts it when trying to cuddle: sharp).

I'd say it's possible you are thin because of an unusually active thyroid, and that your thyroid activity could be resulting in cold knees.

Foods from the crucifers, such as broccoli and mustard, contain varying levels of a thyroid blocker (thiouracil), and you could try modulating your thyroid by consuming more of them, or by trying to reduce your consumption of iodine by switching to uniodized salt and avoiding seafood.

Like gingerest, at least a couple of people posting in the MedHelp thread have low thyroid, but also like gingerest, they're taking replacement thyroid hormone, and I'd bet that their thyroid hormone levels are spiking high enough often enough to mimic this hypothesized cold knee effect of hyperthyroid.
posted by jamjam at 4:22 PM on September 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm just an anecdote, not a body of data, but I had cold knees before the cancer, when I was repeatedly documented euthyroid.

My suspicion is that either there are two phenomena (thyroid cold knees and non-thyroid cold knees) or that thyroid issues are so common that they are spuriously correlated with the knee thing.
posted by gingerest at 8:29 PM on September 25, 2013

(I'm assuming you're a man.) Over-the-knee socks exist for women. They're like knee socks but come up higher. Perhaps you could find some particularly stretchy ones to fit you (I know you said you're thin, but they tend to be more fitted than regular socks.) You could cut off the foot part.
posted by Comet Bug at 1:46 AM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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