Feeling stiff when you get up in the morning is a common problem associated with arthritis. The morning stiffness makes everything hurt when you get out of bed. As you take your first steps, your joints and muscles ache so much that you want to go back to bed. In fact, morning stiffness can be the most intense pain you feel throughout the day and can affect or interfere with your ability to function and perform routine tasks and activities of daily life.
Paying attention to the duration of your morning stiffness (how long it lasts) will help you decide how to deal with it. Morning stiffness lasting more than an hour, and in some cases up to several hours, is characteristic of rheumatoid arthritis or other types of inflammatory arthritis. Morning stiffness that is less prolonged (usually half an hour or less) is more likely to be osteoarthritis or another noninflammatory musculoskeletal condition. Despite having a regular treatment regimen, morning stiffness is a persistent problem for many people with arthritis.
Causes of morning stiffness?
A theory regarding the cause of morning stiffness is known as the gel phenomenon. The gel phenomenon essentially means that stiffness develops after long periods of sitting or sitting idle. This is characteristic of non-inflammatory conditions.
Some researchers note that morning stiffness is a circadian symptom that is not fully understood. Some suspect that there may be insufficient cortisol release in the body at night to compensate for elevated proinflammatory cytokines, such as IL-6. But waking up in the middle of the night to take corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation would be inconvenient, and not without its own side effects.
Tips for dealing with morning stiffness
If you have inflammatory arthritis, controlling morning stiffness involves working with your doctor to control inflammation. No matter what type of arthritis you have, here are some tips that can help:
- Sleep in a position that supports your joints.
- Make sure your room or sleeping environment is warm. Set a comfortable temperature on the thermostat and use heating pads and electric blankets to get extra heat if you need it.
- Before you get out of bed, do simple stretching exercises to work out.
- When you first get up, take a hot shower, being under warm water will relax you.
- Do a few more exercises once your muscles start to loosen.
- It is easier said than done, but when you go to bed, leave work, stress or any problem. Consciously plan to escape stress to help reduce tension and allow your body to relax before falling asleep.
- If possible, delay your activities until later in the day. If you work, consider requesting a later start time.
Morning stiffness affects your level of frustration, your ability to work, and your overall quality of life. Think about it on a smaller scale. How do you feel when you wake up with a strong toothache? Imagine that same discomfort in your entire body. You would do anything to stop it, right? You need to continue your daily routine. Imagine also if this happened day after day.
Do whatever you can to reduce your morning stiffness. Try different things to see what works best for you. Talk to your doctor. Even minimal effort (for example, exercise or a good rest) helps a lot. If morning stiffness is a big problem for you, you may need to consider changes to your medication regimen.