5 Ways to Ward Off Arthritis-Related Morning Stiffness

One of the most frustrating symptoms that arthritis patients must deal with when they wake up is stiff, aching joints. It can seem at times that the joints lock up overnight, making getting out of bed and preparing for the day very difficult. For some people, the process can take hours. If the sound of your alarm clock brings dread because your body won't cooperate with you, try these tips for getting yourself up and moving in the morning:

  • Warm up your bedding. Sometimes muscles and joints stiffen because they're cold. Try sleeping with flannel sheets instead of cotton ones for extra heat. Keep a heating pad near your bed and turn it on as soon as you wake up so your body can shake off the chill and begin limbering up. You can even sleep in a sleeping bag or sweatsuit if it helps you retain heat.
  • Run the dryer. There's nothing like warm, toasty clothing. If you can't get up, ask someone to put your outfit in the dryer and heat it up for a few moments before you slip into it.
  • Get wet. Many arthritis sufferers swear by a hot shower to get them moving in the morning. If it's your hands that particularly bother you, try immersing them in a sink full of warm or hot water for a few minutes until they start loosening up. Some people find that a combination of hot and cold water works for them. If that's the case, fill one sink with hot water and another with cold water, and soak for a few minutes in each.
  • Exercise. Talk to a physical therapist or doctor about devising some range-of-motion moves that you can do lying or sitting up in bed. Performing gentle stretching exercises in the evening also can help you be more flexible in the morning.
  • Learn to relax. If you can let go of stress and tension before falling asleep, you may find that your joints and muscles don't contract as much during the night. Prayer, meditation, or hypnosis might be techniques to consider.
  • Take fish oil. Although controversial, some people believe that fish oil—in the form of capsules, chewable tablets, or fish itself—relieves inflammation and consequent morning stiffness.



Arthritis Foundation, http://www.arthritistoday.org

University of Washington School of Medicine, http://www.orthop.washington.edu