Tips for Managing Morning Pain and Stiffness

By Katherine Curcuruto, 2017- Occupational Therapist and Arthritis Queensland Volunteer

For many people living with arthritis, mornings can be particularly challenging, as they often bring with them aches, stiffness, and discomfort in the joints.

This morning pain and stiffness, known as "morning stiffness," can significantly impact one's ability to start the day comfortably and may persist for most of the day.

However, there are several strategies and lifestyle adjustments that can help reduce morning pain and stiffness, allowing you to get on with your day with greater ease and comfort.

In this article, we'll explore effective tips and techniques for managing morning pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.

1. Keep Warm

Try having a warm shower first thing in the morning to ease stiffness, soothe sore joints and to help you relax. If possible, create a sleeping environment that is warm: keep socks and/or gloves handy to place over feet and hands to help quickly warm up joints, minimise cool drafts coming into the room and try placing a warm heat pack over stiff joints.

2. Gentle stretching and range of movement

Gentle exercises first thing in the morning can be helpful in loosening up stiff muscles and joints. Setting aside a few minutes for gentle movement before getting out of bed can help ease pain and discomfort.  

3. Ease into your activities for the day

Try creating a morning routine that helps you ease into your activities for the day. Remember the 3 P's

  • Pace your morning activities. For example: break tasks into smaller components, schedule in rest breaks, and try not to push yourself beyond your activity threshold.
  • Prioritise what really needs to be done or what you really enjoy doing in the morning. It is important to have a balance of both, and finally;
  • Plan when and how you will complete the chosen activities. For example, try not to complete activities you find more demanding all at once, spread these tasks out over the morning and remember to Pace!

4. Use your ability to adapt

Having morning stiffness can make completing certain tasks more difficult. Be flexible with how and/or when you may complete a task.

  • Try some adaptive devices such as utensils with built up handles, tap turners or bottle/jar openers to help reduce strain on your hands and wrists. There are so many devices to choose from! Do a bit of research or speak to your OT about devices that may be best for you.
  • When stiffness is an issue, think about how you may change the task. For example:  Sit rather than stand to do an activity, place commonly used items in easy to access spaces and break the task into smaller components to complete throughout the day.

LifeTec is a provider of specialist information and advice to help people maximise their independence through assistive technologies, click here to view their website.

5. Relax

Morning stiffness can be frustrating! Take a couple of minutes before getting out of bed to try some quick relaxation techniques to help reduce tension and stress. For example, you may try deep breathing exercises, quiet meditation or even listening to music. We all have different preferences, so find a relaxation technique that works best for you.

If you find that morning stiffness is an ongoing issue for you, consult with your occupational therapist and/or physiotherapist about specific strategies, exercises and equipment that may be useful for you! 

Information provided on this website is of an educational nature and should not be relied on as medical advice. You should consult with your health care professional about the appropriateness of this information for your particular case.

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