What is Stiffness?
Stiffness is the term used to describe the inability to move freely without pain or inflammation or the loss of range of motion. Simply put, stiffness is caused by inflammation of either the muscles or the joints and it is commonly associated with muscle and joint conditions such as osteoarthritis, rheumatic arthritis and muscle strain. Stiffness and tightness can affect many parts of the body, including the neck, back, ankles, calves, hips, knees, legs, shoulders, and more.
What Causes Stiffness?
Many people struggle with stiffness and pain and believe it to be a natural part of the aging process. While stiffness is sometimes the result of general wear and tear there are a number of other possible causes of this type of discomfort and many of them can be adequately treated or addressed with a few life-style changes.
Other causes of stiffness include:
- Obesity, which places extra strain on joints an muscles
- Past injuries which have never adequately healed
- Excessive amounts of insulin in the system (often as a result of diets high in sugar and carbohydrates) which causes inflammation
- Excessive amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which also causes inflammation
- Hormone imbalance or fluctuations
- Viral infections
- Post exercise where the muscles are adjusting to new demands
Note: If you have stiffness without an obvious cause (such as vigorous exercise) then it is always advisable to see your doctor where a diagnosis can be made and underlying conditions can be ruled out.
Relieving Morning Stiffness
You’ll be happy to know that what is causing your morning stiffness can be avoided or corrected… Here are 10 easy things you can do to make a big difference in your life.
- Be sure to get ample deep sleep so your body can repair and recharge. Forget about those troubles or conversations or tasks that need addressing; they can be handled tomorrow. Also, be sure to sleep either on your side or on your back — as stomach sleeping causes unnecessary stress on the low back and spine.
- If your room is drafty, seal the windows or door. If it is cold, try a space heater or use extra blankets to prevent that cold or dampness from stiffening your body.
- Do some easy stretches while lying in bed, then sitting up in bed, such as bending to the front and sides. This will stretch and loosen the muscles and help flush them with more blood.
- Take a hot shower. This serves as a means to induce sweating, promotes blood circulation, and releases muscle spasms. Simply stand under the hot water and… relax.
- After you are warmed up from the shower, do some gentle knee bends — as far as you can go without falling! You can hold on to something for balance if needed. You don’t have to go all the way down, either. These movements exercise almost 90% of the skeletal muscles. Find a counter, table, or chair and use your hands for support. Exhale and squat as low as you can go, then inhale and stand up again. Do 10 of these to get the morning blood flowing and keep the creaky joints silent.
- Drink the best water you can find. Often the tap water in our cities is not the freshest or safest. Even cities like Los Angeles have traces of psychiatric medicines and estrogen-like compounds in their tap water — and these toxins build up in your system over time, causing pain. It is advisable to drink either bottled water or reverse osmosis filtered water.
- Eat healthier. Cut down on simple carbohydrates and start reading labels to avoid consuming more toxins. Simply eliminate all foods with artificial color, enriched white flour, and artificial flavors/sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup, crystalline fructose and aspartame). If you don’t know what it is, or have difficulty pronouncing it, avoid ingesting it.
- Learn some coping mechanisms and stress management techniques so that you’re not lying awake all night thinking about your problems. Learning how to deal with toxic people in your life will both allow you to sleep better and reduce the stress-induced muscle spasms that cause pain.
- Get some regular exercise. The idea is to go out and do some something physical with your body. Even a simple routine of 10000 steps a day (buy a pedometer!) will greatly improve your health.
- Be the fashion police! You want to dress appropriately for these cold months, and you might do well to sleep in flannel pajamas or sweats. Remember, cold air causes muscles and joints to stiffen.
These simple tips followed with a little dedication, along with some minor lifestyle changes and improvements to your living environment, can help you overcome morning stiffness in no time.