21 Jul Familiar with Morning Stiffness?
Stiffness in the shoulders, back, knees, feet, hands or wrists is a common complaint from older individuals. However, old age alone is not the cause of morning joint stiffness. It is usually an indication of worn joints, muscle tightness, or inflammation from arthritis. Some people even have trouble getting out of bed since the morning stiffness makes joint movement slow and difficult. This stiffness usually involves both sides of the body and gets better with movement.
As your joints get older, the spongy cushion of cartilage begins to dry out and stiffen. The synovial fluid which lubricates the joints, is also reduced. Due to this reduction, weak muscles and tendons tend to tighten during sleep due to the long period of inactivity. Besides this, Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, also trigger morning stiffness.
Normally, morning stiffness lasts only about 15 minutes to an hour. The stiffness goes away as you move and warm up the joints and muscles. However, stiffness from rheumatoid arthritis may last longer.
Preventing is the new Wisdom!
You cannot reverse the effects of joint aging. While certain medications can help manage pain caused dur to stiffness and inflammation, it is only a temporary relief and stiffness can still occur. You can however, reduce the severity and frequency of morning stiffness by being more active and engaging in following lifestyle changes:
1. Stretch in bed: Don’t get into action with your alarm. Do some gentle stretches and range-of-motion exercises. For example: turn your head from side to side, loosening your neck. Then stretch your hands, fingers, elbow joints. Gently rotate your wrists and shoulders clock-wise and anti-clock-wise. Stretch your toes and knees forwards and backwards and rotate your ankles. These slow stretches will help loosen your muscles and prepare them for action through the day.
2. Warm showers: A 10-20 min soak is a big relief for soar joints in the morning. If you don’t have time for a soak, then just taking a warm shower would also help by warming your joints along the way. Heat causes the blood to move to the surface of the skin thus increasing circulation and reducing stiffness. Hot packs or Heating pads can also be used for this.
3. Hot and Cold packs: Alternate application of Hot and Cold packs is a quick fix for relieving arthritis pain and stiffness. While the heat relaxes muscles, the cold pack reduces inflammation of joints. Remember to restrict the application of hot or cold pack to maximum 20 minutes and allow the affected area to return to its normal temperature between applications.
4. Avoid excessive Air conditioning : especially during sleep or prolonged hours in the day.
Stay in the naturally low temperature environments or those created by air conditioners for a long time, often lead to stiff neck, back and pain in the limbs due to muscle constriction. Air conditioner should be set at a comfortable, room temperature without stark contrast between the outside temperature and the indoor temperature. For using air conditioning at night, it’s better to set a timer and turn it off before midnight. This will avoid the chill to enter inside the body through the open pores.
5. Diet: A balanced diet is critical for determining tissue nutrition which inturn determines the health of our joints. Ensure that you are getting an appropriate amount of high-quality fats and that you are actively tending to Fire and Air. Know your constitution since different body constitutions and imbalances require different types of foods and nourishment.
6. Cardio everyday: Walking for 30-40 minutes a day strengthens the muscles that support your joints in your legs. However, doing multiple rounds of Suryanamaskar is a very good cardio for muscles and joints across the entire body. Strong muscles reduce the proneness to morning stiffness.
7. Yogasanas: Yogasanas incorporate many gentle stretches to improve circulation in and around the joints. Yoga also nourishes our bodies with prana and balances the five elements of your constitution. Lubricating the vertebral joints along the spinal column will keep up overall flexibility. Hence caring for the spine plays a big role in the overall mobility of the body as well.
Getting yourself warmed up and moving your joints are essential daily. However, on the days when you do not find time to do cardio or practice Yogasanas, a way to prevent stiffness in muscles is to move as much as you can during the day. When you have been sitting or lying around, fluid in the joints doesn’t move. Motion is lotion – the more you move, the more your body lubricates itself!
Try these tips to rise and shine over morning stiffness!