For those of us who suffer from chronic pain, morning stiffness and trouble getting out of bed are common complaints. We just don’t jump out like we used to. Anything can impact pain- a long day at work, the weather, travel, a sleepless night, and additional stress, but nothing compares to those first few minutes after a long, immobile night.
We all have triggers that worsen our pain, but for many, morning issues are routinely cited as the worst. Lying in one position for long periods of time causes joints and their surrounding muscles and tissues to tighten up and inflame. The very thing that stops this viscous cycle and keeps us going throughout the day- activity – is lost. By the time the alarm sounds, any kind of movement feels impossible to achieve. And once off to a rocky start the rest of the day just gets harder to manage.
Here are some tips to make mornings easier:
1) Keep your hands and feet toasty throughout the night. This will decrease inflammation and improve circulation to inflamed joints, helping them to move easier. There’s no question I feel better when I’m warm. Cold weather is not my friend. Even adding a heating blanket or mattress can make a huge difference.
2) Take your meds before you have to get out of bed. If you’re like me you’re up frequently throughout the night to change positions. When it’s within two hours of the alarm sounding I take my morning meds or apply another dose of topical creams. That way they’ve had a chance to work before I have to rise.
3) Before I get out of bed I quickly stretch each muscle group to get them warmed up and mobile. Tight, achey muscles relax, making morning rituals easier to accomplish. Investing a few minutes here can pay wonderful dividends throughout the entire day. See my posts on stretching and self massage for great ideas.
4) Take a long hot bath. As I’ve stated repeatedly it’s the best way I know to decrease pain and relieve tension. After feeding my dogs, it’s the first thing I do to prepare for the long day to come. There isn’t a better way to blast immobile joints with much needed circulation and warmth. Add a little epsom salt or lavender oil and this morning ritual turns into a great way to enhance any day.
5) Not a bath person? Take a long, hot shower. Stand under a warm spray and position the jets to the worst areas of pain. The enveloping steam keeps the entire body warm while allowing inflamed and painful joints to be gently moved in order to increase mobility.
6) Eat low inflammation diet. As discussed in numerous posts we are what we eat. Cutting out refined foods that induce inflammation – sugar, fats, white breads, and sodas, won’t just reduce pain but improve mobility. Give it a few weeks, you may be amazed at how much better you feel.
7) Add a morning walk to your routine. Getting outdoors isn’t just a great way to exercise but a perfect way to decompress and relax before the issues of the day descend. And if you have dogs you’ll accomplish two things at once.
8) Have your breakfast ready to go. Making a meal is often the last thing I want to do any time of the day. But when every minute counts, the last thing I need is to feel stressed about making a healthy breakfast. Prepare it in advance or put the ingredients together the night before so it’s ready to throw in a blender and drink on the way to work.
9) Skip alcohol the night before and your body will thank you. Alcohol decreases the rate of transmission of some nerve impulses in the brain, so it may seem to deaden pain initially. But over time more and more is required to get the same effect. And although it may help us to fall asleep easier, constant interruptions from needing to urinate, night sweats, and thirst from dehydration cause us to awaken frequently.
10) See if you can start your work day a little later. Sleeping in just a hour more might make a huge difference in pain levels throughout the day. There’s no question I feel better the more sleep I can get. The chance to crawl back into bed after I feed my dogs is another reason I love weekends.
11) Take a supplement the night before. Turmeric, capsaicin, and garlic target inflammation and lessen pain. Just make sure they are from reputable companies, don’t interfere with your medications and are at the recommended dosages.
12) Don’t forget to hydrate. Inadequate water intake reduces your body’s ability to remove inflammatory chemicals from tissues, worsening aches and pains. Drink throughout the day and stop within four hours of bedtime or you’ll have to get up to urinate frequently during the night.
13) Pop your clothes in a dryer for a quick warm up before you put them on. Or heat the towel before you dry off. Enveloping yourself in a cocoon of warmth is a delightful way to relax sore muscles and joints.
14) Mornings are tough. How they begin can often define how the rest of the day will evolve. Don’t jump right in with work. Get up early enough to allow the morning ritual to ease you slowly into the craziness of another day.
15) Get a good nights sleep. Otherwise the bodies tissues and cells are deprived of time essential to repairing and recovering from an active day. Get to bed at the same time each night. I know it’s difficult to turn off the TV or put down a book once I’m finally able to relax. It’s easy to talk myself into just a few more minutes. But I know those minutes are better spent in sleep. The more I can sleep the better I’ll feel.
16) Before getting out of bed take a minute and breathe. Slow even breaths while you envision the wonderful day to come. Breath out the pain, stress and anxieties and see only a positive, enriching, successful day to come. Our attitudes often direct the outcome.
17) Stop smoking. Any type of smoke- from cigarettes to vaping to marijuana- exchanges life requiring oxygen with toxins. This prevents oxygen rich blood from reaching bones and tissues, especially those that already have limited blood flows like discs in the spine. It also suppresses the ability to remove carbon dioxide in the blood for oxygen resulting in weakened, achey muscles.
18) Try Tai Chi, the ancient practice that combines slow, deliberate movements with breathing exercises or a yoga program designed to jump start your mornings. They’ll go a long way to mobilizing and improving circulation to achey joints and muscles before a long, active day.
19) Take the stress out of mornings. Plan ahead. Have your clothes and accessories picked out and ready to go. Trouble holding the toothbrush first thing in the morning? Add a rubber band to toothbrush handles fora better grip. Take care of your hair grooming the night before. Every minute counts when you’ve got precious few.
20) Add some mood music to morning ablutions. There’s nothing like an upbeat song that gets the blood flowing and makes you feel ready to tackle anything that comes your way. Or a soothing, calming one that lets you relax and prepare. Whatever your taste or need a song can be a perfect way to set the days tone.
Days are usually defined by how they start. On a good morning we can tackle anything. A bad one is tough to overcome. Anything that can make them better is worth trying.