Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis Morning Stiffness
One of the most annoying and, unfortunately, hallmark symptoms of RA is morning stiffness. And although I haven’t been formally diagnosed with RA, this is something I experience on a several days a week basis. It makes getting out of bed pure torture and if I’m honest, makes me want to stay in bed even longer. If it isn’t well managed, it can even make the daily task of getting ready for the day inconceivable.
Usually this wears off within a few hours (at least according to NHS, or the National Health Services of the United Kingdom), but it can last a lot longer. Here are some top tips to help keep it in check.
1. Get Plenty of Sleep
I find that the amount of sleep I get often has a direct correlation with how much stiffness I experience in the mornings. Apparently, this is due to the fact that less sleep makes us more vulnerable and sensitive to pain.
Instead of trying to skirt by on six hours of sleep a night, the way many people do, make sure you get a full night’s sleep. What constitutes as a full night’s sleep can vary from person to person, but you can experiment a bit to find your optimal number. Somewhere between seven and nine is appropriate for most adults, but it can be a bit more for RA sufferers.
2. Get Moving
When you wake up, do some simple stretches before you’ve even gotten out of bed to limber up your muscles and wake up your joints. Moving around, at least for me, can make all of the difference when it comes to stiffness. Do a few circular arm motions and leg lifts before you’re ready to get out of bed.
3. Take It Slow
Taking things slowly can be key when it comes to managing the dreaded morning stiffness. Don’t rush out of bed and hope your stiffness will suddenly subside. Instead, get out of bed slowly and calmly, moving your joints to the maximum you can go without hurting yourself. Your body will start to warm up as you begin your morning routine.
You don’t have to go full on yoga in the mornings to get a little stretch going. If you are able to do light meditative yoga, this is definitely a great option for those with RA stiffness, but for most this isn’t going to be something that’s achievable. Instead, warm up your joints by doing a few squats, lunge stretches and stretching your arms into the air and as far as you can away from your body.
Also, don’t forget to wiggle your fingers and toes, as those can also be killer in the morning. Though it may not feel amazing through the stiffness, it will help your joints start to loosen and get ready for the day. If you’re feeling especially ambitious try doing some back twists and side bends to get your spine moving as well.
5. Take a Shower
If you’re a night shower kind of person, it might be a wise move for your RA to begin showering in the morning. The heat will help loosen your muscles and joints and make it easier to kickstart your day. For some people, the simple act of showering helps them wake up anyway, so this is a great idea for those of you who are also groggy in the mornings.
If you are especially stiff, soaking in a bath can also limber you up. Although this may not fit into your morning routine, you can always opt for a shower at night to get clean and a 10-20 minute soak in the morning to get your blood flowing and your joints moving.
6. Talk to Your Doctor
If the morning stiffness is still unbearable, you may consider speaking to your doctor about something to help manage it. On and off, I take a pill at night that eases the morning stiffness incredibly, though it does make me tired at night, so it is necessary to try and get a full night’s sleep when taking it.
Other people may take painkillers or other medicines that can make it easier to get moving in the morning. If you have a lot of trouble getting going in the mornings and you take medicine for it, you might want to set your alarm one to two hours before you’re due to wake up, take the pill, then go back to sleep. This will give it time to work so that when it is time to get up, it will be a lot easier to start your day.