Hi everyone ;). When I first saw the Ecard above, it made me laugh. Sadly, I could relate to it all too well. Can you relate to it too? If you have autoimmune arthritis, you’ll probably be familiar with the experience of waking up only to realize that your joints are filled with stabbing pains and you can barely move :(. When I was younger, I would experience severe morning stiffness in all my joints. There were terrible days when my joints were simply locked and I was trapped and unable to get off the bed. Can you guys relate to this? Nowadays my condition has calmed significantly with treatment, but morning stiffness and pain are still part of life for me. I often wake up feeling groggy and unrested and it takes some time for my body to get going. Over the years I have developed some techniques to help me out in the morning which I want to share today. If you are battling painful mornings, hang in there friends. Please feel free to share your own techniques and coping mechanisms with me as well, so we can all learn together.
1. Set your alarm early
If you wake up with severe pain in the morning, give yourself some time to relax. When I open my eyes in the morning, it’s difficult/painful to just jump off the bed as my body is often shrouded in pain. Personally, it takes me a half hour to an hour to physically get off the bed. I know that this is common for many autoimmune arthritis patients :(. But don’t fret, we can get through it. Because it takes time for my joints to “thaw” and loosen up, I always set my alarm a little bit earlier than necessary. This way my body has enough time to relax and my joints get some time to loosen up. e.g. If you know you need to get off the bed by 7am, set your alarm for 6.30am so you can lay in your bed and allow your body to loosen up before attempting to move.
2. Splints, braces and supports
In my last post I mentioned the value of splinting and supporting joints to reduce the discomfort of stiffness in the morning. My joints (like many RA patients) have a tendency to stiffen during periods of inactivity. Sometimes just speaking on the phone for a half hour causes my wrists, fingers and elbows to “freeze” in that position. Have you ever tried to “unlock” or unstretch a “frozen” joint? Talk about OUCH! 😦 Splints and braces have proven extremely helpful in reducing my stiffness in the morning, as they keep my joints secured in a comfortable position.
Heat is often used by arthritis patients to relax stiff joints. This article from ArthritisToday.org gives some pointers on using heat to combat stiffness. I have found that heat helps loosen my joints tremendously. I sometimes use heat packs at night and find that they are actually still warm by morning, which is useful to my joints. However, if you need more heat, have someone from your family bring you a heated pack as soon as you wake up. If you live in a cold area, consider an electric blanket to help warm you up.
4. Hot bath/shower
If you have work or school, it’s a bit difficult to find time in the morning for a hot bath. I have found that a hot shower works just as well in helping to loosen my stiff joints.
5. Do light stretching/exercise/yoga when you wake up
I know that you guys are going to groan for this one (do exercise while stiff and in pain?! Yeah right!), but I’ve found that doing a little stretching while in bed or during the morning period helps my joints to loosen up. Take your time and work on the areas which are problematic. Consult with your physiotherapist for exercises which are appropriate to your specific situation before attempting. You may find these Hand-stretching Exercises from WebMD.com and Bed Exercises from ArthritisSelfManagement.com useful.
I have also found that doing regular exercise/swimming helps with my stiffness overall, so don’t forget to get as much movement as you can, whenever you can, however you can. Trust me, I know that is easier said than done ;). Check out Sneaky ways to exercise with Juvenile Arthritis for some ideas.
6. Brighten that painful mood with music, a television show or a good book
As I mentioned in my last post, living with chronic pain can make us feel quite sad and frustrated at times. While the average healthy person wakes up feeling refreshed, autoimmune arthritis patients often wake up feeling tired and in pain, no matter how much sleep we’ve gotten. As such, we have to find ways to keep ourselves motivated and HAPPY, even in the midst of a tough and painful situation. While relaxing in bed, put on a few of your favourite tunes to help brighten your mood and energize you for the day. If you prefer, stream a short video, play a game or catch up on a little reading before you get off the bed. Take this time to laugh and be entertained and allow that positive mood to carry you into the day, even with pesky arthritis pain. 😉
Okay guys. I know that mornings can be extremely tough. Many of us wake up feeling like we’ve been beaten or physically crushed during the night :(. If you’re newly diagnosed, I know that it’s a very scary and frustrating experience. Hang in there. Feel free to share your experiences with morning stiffness or ways which have helped you through the morning pain. Thanks!
All the best,
- Morning Stiffness in Rheumatoid Arthritis. J. T. Scott. Ann Rheum Dis 1960;19:4 361-368doi:10.1136/ard.19.4.361 – http://ard.bmj.com/content/19/4/361.full.pdf
- Managing Morning Stiffness in RA – http://www.arthritisselfmanagement.com/condition/rheumatoid/managing-morning-stiffness-in-ra/?page=all
- Tips for Dealing With Morning Stiffness – http://arthritis.about.com/od/arthritissignssymptoms/a/Tips-For-Dealing-With-Morning-Stiffness.htm
- Wake Up Pain – http://arthritisgirl.blogspot.com/2013/10/wake-up-pain.html