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Morning Stiffness?

morning stiffness

Morning Pain and Stiffness

One of the most frequent questions I get in my Newmarket chiropractic office is, “Why am I so stiff in the morning.”  “First movement” pain or morning stiffness usually lasts approximately 15-45 minutes for those who experience it.  Once the day progresses, the stiffness usually improves only to worsen by the end of day.  It can often disrupt sleep as well.  The cycle then repeats.

What Causes Morning Stiffness?

The most common cause of morning stiffness is usually arthritis which can be diagnosed by an x-ray.  “Motion is lotion” for the joints and when not moving while at rest or sleeping, fluid or inflammation tends to build up in the joints causing them to stiffen.  This can even happen after prolonged sitting.  Stiffness and pain can also happen without the presence of arthritis, so it is important to find out why you may be experiencing it before trying to manage it.

Signs of Spinal Arthritis

Here are some common signs of spinal arthritis/morning stiffness –

  • An aching-type pain in the area of damage
  • Numbness and tingling from pressure on nearby nerves
  • Certain reproducible movements that increase pain in the affected area
  • Loss of flexibility
  • Inability to perform certain movements like picking something off the floor or tying up shoes
  • Sound (crepitus) coming from the joint with certain movements
  • Hunched over or altered posture

What Can Be Done to Help with Spinal Arthritis/Stiffness?

Interestingly, research shows that the level of damage/arthritis correlates poorly to the amount of pain someone may have.  Even children can have asymptomatic spinal arthritis (click here).  So, when trying to help someone with spinal arthritis, we always must consider the functional ability of the patient in addition to what the imaging (x-rays/MRI) may show us.

Here is a list of things I have found to be helpful in managing our patients with spinal arthritis/morning stiffness –

  • Movement is crucial; you will need to learn your tolerance to certain movements, otherwise it could worsen your condition; taking frequent rests during activity can also be very helpful
  • Add some anti-inflammatory foods into your diet (click here for a list) and remove the inflammatory ones
  • Set up a regular adjustment schedule – postural adjustments can help take pressure off nerves, restore proper alignment, increase range of motion, decrease muscle tension, and can even cause a release of endorphins (natural pain killers)
  • Specific spinal remodeling exercises and traction can also help, if they are specifically recommended based on your specific findings (exam and x-rays); we can provide these to you
  • Upon rising from bed or prolonged sitting, expect stiffness (it is normal with arthritis) and move slowly while your joints “wake up” (no sudden movements); gentle slow stretching can help with this as well
  • A warm bath or shower first thing in the morning can help with morning stiffness
  • Supplementing with omega 3’s and a natural product that contains glucosamine and Biovaflex like Fast Joint Care + can help

There is hope available to those with the morning stiffness associated with spinal arthritis.  Becoming an active participant in your recovery plan ensures the best possible outcome for managing your pain and stiffness.

Yours in movement,

Dr. Jon Saunders

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