Why are you feeling so achy and stiff in the morning? Could it be an old, ill-suited mattress? An unsupportive pillow? A poor sleeping position? Do you have an underlying health condition like osteoarthritis? What about dehydration? Maybe it’s a combination of these issues, or maybe it’s something else entirely. Whatever the reason, a.m. stiffness is no joke! To get your day started in the right direction and help yourself feel more limber and energized in the morning, check out these four top tips from our physical therapy team.
1. Drink Up
Your body loses a lot of water at night while you’re sleeping, mostly through sweat and breath. So, it’s not unusual to wake up in the morning and be super dehydrated. Unfortunately, dehydration can contribute to stiff, sore, and achy joints and muscles since our tissues will lack the water they need to feel and function at their best.
Of course, we know many people prefer a fresh cup of java before anything else. But before you reach for your cup o’ Joe, first drink one or two cold glasses of water instead. This will refresh and energize you, replenish your body’s water stores, and may help your body. Bonus: drinking more water may help you lose weight, and we know obesity is associated with chronic pain.
Deep breathing is so powerful that it’s routinely used as a way to relax the body, alleviate tension and stress, and decrease pain. We encourage you to use your breath as a tool for relieving morning tension.
There are so many breathing exercises to choose from! A popular one is called box breathing (aka square breathing or 4×4 breathing). To do, breathe in through your nose for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, exhale through your mouth for a count of 4, and hold for a count of 4 before breathing in again. Repeat for 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Get Moving
Some of us toss and turn more than others, but we all move our bodies less frequently when we’re asleep compared to when we’re awake. This may slow circulation and cause our tissues to become stiff, especially if we sleep in odd positions or have an underlying health problem like arthritis.
By the way: your achy back may not be just because of your mattress. Spinal discs become imbibed with fluid at night as we sleep horizontally (since gravity compresses our spines less in this position). While this is a normal physiological process, it can make our backs feel super stiff.
One of the best ways to stimulate circulation, increase tissue perfusion, and loosen up your connective tissues is to move! So, try to do some sort of physical activity soon after you wake up. This could be as simple as some stretches and exercises while lying or sitting on your bed, a gentle yoga flow, or even a brisk walk around your neighborhood.
Just remember to always consult with your doctor, physical therapist, or other appropriate healthcare provider before starting any new exercise routine. Speaking of which…
4. Consult With a Physical Therapist
If your morning achiness is severe enough to cause you stress or affect your daily life, it may be time to consult with a physical therapist. He or she can diagnose and manage many underlying health conditions. He or she can also offer tips on improving your sleep hygiene and posture, and prescribe interventions that will maximize your connective tissue health overall and help you feel and function better.