Do you go to bed after a long, tiring day, hoping to recharge those batteries, only to wake up with a sore neck or stiff low back? We talk to physiotherapist Nik about how you can combat this common complaint.
Morning stiffness is a frequent issue which can affect not only those with arthritis, rheumatism or fibromyalgia, but also many, many others. We all want to wake up feeling refreshed, rested and ready to take on the day ahead. Waking up feeling stiff, fatigued and in pain for the next 1 to 2 hours, until you “warm up”, can be truly frustrating. But why do you feel like that and what can you do to alleviate (or even fix) it?
What is causing my morning stiffness?
There are various reasons why you may be experiencing that annoying stiffness in the morning, including:
- Poor sleeping gear and/or posture
Having the right mattress and pillow to properly support your spine and peripheral joints can be one of the most influential factors on your morning stiffness. Also, the way we position ourselves during sleep can play a major role in how we feel when we wake up.
- Poor hydration
Lack of fluids or dehydration can also lead to muscle and joint stiffness, as these structures consume the most water. Water takes up as much as 70% of our body weight and we require at least 2 to 3 litres of it per day to be properly hydrated.
Long-term anxiety has been proven to affect muscles and increase stiffness due to behavioural and postural changes.
- Lack of exercise
It is widely known that exercise can result in endorphin release in the brain, providing that feel-good mood. It is also the best way to keep your musculoskeletal and cardiovascular systems in tiptop condition.
- Diet and obesity
A diet that’s poor in vitamins and high in simple carbohydrates and sugars can cause muscle weakness, lethargy and could ultimately lead to obesity. Being overweight puts extra strain on muscles, joints and ligaments and can also result in cardiovascular dysfunctions, which, in turn, can lead to poor oxygenation of tissues.
Age can most certainly be a big contributor towards morning stiffness, due to muscle and joint degeneration and inflammation of those tissues.
How can I relieve my morning stiffness?
As you can see by reading through some of the causes of morning stiffness above, you could easily improve your quality of sleep by making a few simple adjustments, such as drinking more water, introducing more protein and vitamins into your diet and starting to exercise a bit more.
Now, let’s take a closer look at what you can do to wake up feeling fresh and energised.
- Stretch it out
Taking 5 to 10 minutes to gently stretch before you go to bed and after you wake up, will get you warmed up and pain free a lot faster.
- Sleep deep
Getting to the stage of deep sleep is highly beneficial, as this is the time when your body repairs, produces growth hormones and basically recharges your batteries.
- Sleep gear, posture and environment
As mentioned above, having the right mattress and pillow will distribute the pressure in your joints appropriately, maintain the proper curvature of your spine and allow your muscles to relax. Be aware that the normal lifespan of a mattress is around 7 to 8 years. Also, sleeping on your back and sides (with a pillow in between your knees) are the optimum positions, as the strain forces are lessened in comparison to sleeping on your belly, which puts unnecessary stress on your neck and low back. Finally, sleeping in a dry and warm environment is the best option. Snoozing in a cold and/or damp room could result in stiffness.
- Warm baths
Taking a warm bath before you go to bed not only relaxes your muscles and increases blood flow (which brings nutrients and oxygen to help repair muscles) but also has a stress-relieving effect. So treat yourself after that tiring day at work by putting on some relaxing music and taking some time to relax under the warm water.
- Avoid prolonged sitting and/or standing periods
Like most animals, we are designed to move around rather than to stay still in one position. Take frequent breaks when sitting at work. Stand up and have a little walk or stretch. This will help you to loosen up. When at home, you can also alternate between sitting and laying on the couch in different positions, always with the proper pillow support in your neck and low back.
- Diet and hydration
Improving your diet by decreasing your intake of simple carbohydrates (white bread, pasta, cereal, chocolate bars, syrup, fizzy drinks, white sugar etc.) and regulating your daily calorie intake, as well as increasing your protein (meat, fish, nuts etc.) and vitamins (veggies and fruits), will increase your metabolism and energy levels, improve your digestion and help you to lose extra fat. In addition to that, consuming at least 2 to 3 litres of water per day is essential to keep you hydrated. Two quick life-changing tips to be on top of your hydration are firstly to drink a glass of water first thing in the morning and secondly to drink water before your mouth gets dry (a dry mouth is a sign of dehydration).
- Consult your physiotherapist
Finally, persistent morning stiffness can be an early sign of musculoskeletal dysfunction , which should be treated in order to prevent the aggravation of your condition and substantially decrease the possibility of injury. If you are suffering from stubborn morning stiffness, get in touch to consult one of our highly qualified physiotherapists.
Quality sleep is one of the most important factors in keeping your mental and physical health in the long run. Morning stiffness should not be tolerated, so take the first step to beat the stiff today!
Click here to find your nearest Capital Physio clinic, where our expert physiotherapists are ready to help you prepare for an active summer with a personalised treatment programme. Any questions? Contact our friendly Holborn HQ by calling 033 0333 0435 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.