MyMichigan Health: Why your joints feel stiff In the morning, and what you can do about it

MyMichigan Health: Why your joints feel stiff In the morning, and what you can do about it

Generally speaking, many people experience some joint stiffness, which is often most severe when one first gets up in the morning.

Q. What causes joint pain?

A. Your joints are made up of bone, cartilage and synovial fluid. As we age, cartilage starts to break down and our bodies start to produce less synovial fluid. The cartilage and fluid are what lubricate the joints and allow for nice, smooth motion. Moving a joint without synovial fluid or cartilage in it would be like running an engine without oil – it causes friction, which often leads to pain.     

Why can joint pain be most severe when I first wake up in the morning?

When we sleep, our joints move very little. Muscle tissue becomes less flexible and the joint surfaces become less lubricated. As a result, things stiffen up. This is a somewhat normal occurrence, but can affect some people more severely than others.      

Is there anything I can do to prevent or lessen joint pain?

There are several things that can help improve or manage joint pain. Eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet, staying well hydrated, getting to or staying at a healthy body weight, and exercising regularly have all been shown as effective ways to improve joint health.

Are there exercises that I can do that might help my joint pain?

It helps to have a regular mobility routine to start your day off. Before you even get out of bed, try some gentle lumbar rotations or knee-to-chest exercises. Sitting from the side of the bed, you can perform a gentle trunk rotation, forward reaches and knee extension exercises. Once standing, try some hip flexor stretches and heel rises.

Try to develop a plan that you can stay consistent with. Our bodies are made for movement and activity. Finding a comprehensive approach that keeps us active and addresses any mobility restrictions plays a key role in how we feel on a daily basis.   

When do I need to see a health care provider about my joint pain?

If your joint pain symptoms are not well managed or are significantly worsening, you should talk to your primary care provider to ensure that there isn’t an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

Dave Bearss, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., T.P.I., is a physical therapist at MyMichigan Health.

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