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6 Tips for Morning Stiffness Relief

Posted 4/19/2017 by UHBlog

Do sore and stiff joints make getting out of bed in the morning a recurrent nightmare? We can help.

6 Tips for Morning Stiffness Relief

Jumping out of bed in the morning can be a daunting task if you suffer from joint pain. Although morning stiffness is an inevitable part of aging, the degree, intensity and duration of joint soreness and stiffness can be a red flag indicating a bigger problem, says rheumatologist Chitra Manickam, MD.

“Morning stiffness that lasts about 30 minutes is usually caused by wear and tear of cartilage in the joints,” Dr. Manickam says. “However, when patients tell me their morning stiffness and pain lasts well over an hour and prevents them from performing simple tasks like turning on or off a faucet, opening a door or holding their coffee mug, that’s a sign that something more is going on. These patients require a thorough evaluation by their primary care doctor, who may refer them to a rheumatologist like myself.”

According to Dr. Manickam, the warning signs that your morning stiffness needs further evaluation include:

  • Joint pain that lasts more than an hour
  • Painful swelling or redness in the joints
  • Warm or tender joints
  • Joint pain that interferes with activities of daily living

When joint pain is a function of aging rather than a more serious problem, Dr. Manickam offers these six lifestyle tips to relieve and minimize morning stiffness:

  1. Keep yourself active. Daily exercise, like walking, simple weight bearing exercises or swimming helps strengthen the muscles around the joints.
    “Physical activity helps minimize joint pain and helps make further movement more manageable,” she says. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. Carrying around excess weight puts undue strain on joints, tendons, muscles and ligaments, increasing their risk of wear and tear.
    “For every pound of body weight, you are putting four pounds of pressure on your knees,” Dr. Manickam says.
  3. Follow the sun. Living and working in a cold, damp climate causes stiff muscles and affects blood circulation throughout the body.
    “When people with chronic joint problems spend their winters in a warmer climate, they feel much better, as joint pain worsens with changes in bariatric pressure in the winter,” she says.
  4. Eat right. A poor diet high in carbohydrates, saturated fats and sugar can weaken muscles and cause weight gain. Excess body fat is capable of producing hormones and chemicals that actually increase levels of inflammation. By eating properly and avoiding inflammatory foods, you automatically reduce the level of inflammation – and joint soreness – in your body.
  5. Your mattress matters. If you haven't changed your mattress in 15 years, you have been asleep at the switch.
    “Old mattresses that have lost their firmness and aren't supportive can lead to morning stiffness and pain, and can also contribute to lack of quality sleep,” says Dr. Manickam.
  6. Do stretches. Simple morning stretches before you get out of bed can help you limber up and increase circulation to your hips, knees, neck and shoulders, further relieving discomfort.

Chitra Manickam, MD, is a rheumatologist at University Hospitals Chagrin Highlands Health Center. You can request an appointment with Dr. Manickam or any other doctor online.

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