Do you grunt, groan, and ratchet yourself to a standing position as you get out of bed in the morning? Then, after stretching and moving around for a few minutes, do you feel the achiness and stiffness abate (at least some of it)?
These experiences are common for just about anyone, but are especially painful for people with recent injuries or arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other inflammatory conditions; those recovering from a recent surgical procedure; athletes after a hard training day; or just plain ordinary folks who have spent hours shoveling snow or garden compost.
Why Do We Wake Up Stiff and Achy?
Doctors, physical therapists, and other medical professionals have long suggested a number of reasons why we wake up stiff and achy. These include:
- Sleeping on a worn-out mattress and/or pillow—or one that doesn’t provide the right level of support for the neck and spine.
- Sleeping in a too-cold environment.
- Lack of physical activity … or overtraining (working beyond your limits or strength and/or endurance).
- Poor posture, especially while performing daytime tasks.
- Poor diet.
- Physical or emotional stress that results in chronically tightened muscles and tendons.
The Body’s Natural Ibuprofen
While these factors may increase stiffness and pain upon waking, there’s another big reason: As day darkens into night, the circadian clocks in joint tissue suppress inflammation and also the body’s production of anti-inflammatory proteins, our natural pain-dampeners.
Yes, our body’s natural ibuprofen has not kicked in yet! During sleep, our body’s biological clock suppresses anti-inflammatory proteins.
Once the morning light streams in and we’ve struggled up and moved around a bit, the body begins producing its anti-inflammatory compounds again, and we begin feeling more flexible with less pain.
British researchers say that these findings may eventually lead to new treatments for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.
How to Feel Better
So, what can you do to lessen your early-morning creakiness?
- Working up from your toes, contract, wiggle, and stretch every part of your body while you’re still lying in bed. This gives your muscles a chance to warm up before jumping into action for the day.
- Move slowly and stretch after you stand up.
- If you can, get into a warm tub or shower to loosen up and soothe the overnight aches.
- If you take pain medication, ask your doctor about rescheduling and/or altering the dose.
(It might also help to pay attention to the conditions in the first bulleted list above and make adjustments accordingly!)
Remember: You don’t have to start each day achy and creaky! Follow these steps to get off to a smoother—and more comfortable—start.