Mornings can be tough when you have arthritis – joint stiffness and soreness always seem to greet you right when you wake up. The good news is that you can adjust your morning routine to minimize these symptoms.
About Arthritis in the Morning
There are more than 100 different kinds of arthritis.Degenerative arthritis, or osteoarthritis, causes morning stiffness that can last for about 30 minutes or less, says Julie Herrington, a registered physiotherapist with the Arthritis Rehabilitation and Education Program (AREP) of The Arthritis Society. There are some tools that can help to ease arthritis pain in addition to using an over-the-counter medication such as TYLENOL® Arthritis Pain,, but you’ll have to lengthen your routine if it takes you longer to get rolling in the morning. Try these strategies to help get your day off to a good start.
Range of motion exercises – done right in bed, before you get up – are the most important and helpful tools you have in the fight against morning stiffness, says Herrington. Focus on whatever joint is stiff and move it in the ways it’s supposed to move naturally. “So if it’s your knee, then it’s really simple,” says Herrington, “you just bend it as much as you can and straighten it as much as you can until you can get yourself out of bed.”
For people with osteoarthritis, that can mean as little as five to 10 minutes of movement exercise for the joint that’s
affected. For some simple exercises you can do almost anywhere, check out the top 10 arthritis-friendly exercises from The Arthritis Society.
Arthritis pain and stiffness originate in the joints, but stretching the surrounding muscles and tendons can also help you find relief. You don’t have to overhaul your mornings or spend ages doing them – sometimes the smallest changes are the best at reducing discomfort. Add some simple stretches to your morning routine after you’ve finished your range-of-motion exercises.
For example, if you have arthritis in your knee, hip or lower back, says Herrington, your hamstring muscles might be tight. To loosen them up, lie on your back in bed and lift one leg up into the air. Keeping it as straight as you can, gently pull the leg toward your body, then relax and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat. This helps lengthen those tight hamstrings and ease tension.
Speak to a physiotherapist for help with stretches that target your problem areas.
Taking a pain-relief medication such as TYLENOL® Arthritis Pain right when you wake up can help relieve joint pain fast. TYLENOL® Arthritis Pain is easy on the stomach and provides extended relief so you can get (and keep) moving throughout the day.
Take a shower first thing in the morning if you can, advises Herrington. Moist heat penetrates down to the joint and can offer nearly instant relief.
If you’re too stiff to hop right into the shower, she says, invest in a moist heating pad and use it in bed as you’re exercising and stretching. (Dry heating pads, blankets and beanbags are better for easing superficial aches, such as sore muscles.) Keep it handy at your bedside so you’ll be able to loosen up gently without getting up – plus, it feels so nice when you’re still cozy and sleepy.
You may not regularly use a gait aid such as a cane or walker, but if you have arthritis in your lower body (back, knees or ankles) you may consider keeping one near your bed to combat morning stiffness
If you feel sore, weak and wobbly when you first get up, having a gait aid to lean on can help protect your joints and prevent falls, says Herrington. You may not need this backup later in the day, but it can be a safer way to start the day.
© Johnson & Johnson Inc. 2014