Morning Stiffness: Why Am I Stiff in the Morning?

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We have all had days where we wake up in the morning, and it feels like we got in a fight the night before – be it a stiff neck, sore back, or other issues. Today I want to talk a little bit about some of the reasons why this happens and some tips that you can do to prevent this.

The first and foremost reason we typically get stiff during the night is immobility. During the night we tend to stay in a limited number of positions for a prolonged period of time. Because of this, our joints and muscles don’t move like they do during the day. Movement is critical for our joints and muscles, and because of this lack of motion, those structures tend to tighten up and give us that feeling of stiffness.

The second reason is that sometimes we do not always sleep in the most ergonomic positions. If we fall asleep or move into an unnatural position for our joints, that position can put undue stress on our musculoskeletal system throughout the night.

Another reason why we get stiff throughout the night is our body goes through a process called imbibition. This is a process that happens in our spinal discs. Throughout the night, our discs get a inflow of fluid to hydrate them. This effect fills them up almost like a balloon, and because of this not only are we slightly taller in the morning (1-2 cm) but also any small back issues we have are exaggerated with the increased stresses from this extra fluid.

How to Prevent Morning Stiffness

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Now that you know what is causing this, what are some things that you can do to mitigate it?

1. Improve your sleeping position.

First off, making sure that you have a good sleeping position is very important. In my office I recommend one of two sleeping positions, either on your back or on your side. For both of these positions, having a properly sized pillow is important. For side sleepers, you want a pillow that is thick enough that your neck doesn’t tilt while sleeping. For back sleepers, you want a pillow with proper cervical support.

2. Use proper pillows

The last and final tip that I recommend is primarily for side sleepers. Sleep with a pillow between your knees and your arms. By putting a pillow between your knees it helps to reduce the stress on your hips and low back throughout the night by keeping your legs at a more neutral position. The pillow for your arms has a similar effect but on your shoulders.

Hopefully these tips will be helpful to decrease your stiffness in the morning, but sometimes we wake up with a kink in our neck. For those times please give us a call at Active Life Chiropractic and we can get you feeling better and sticking to your active life (573)999-7805!

– Dr. Sam Henley