I wanted to answer a common question I get asked about being stiff which we get asked regularly by patients at Empire Performance PT:
“Tony, do you have any advice for someone like me who isn’t in a lot of pain? I’m just incredibly stiff when I wake up on a morning, and I feel it throughout the day which means I can’t do things as easily as I’d like. Any advice?”
I’ve go plenty of tips and advice to help reduce stiffness.
But first I want to clear up ‘why’ we feel stiff in the first place.
A lot of people we see think that stiffness is something we feel as we get older – and while there’s some truth in that, stiffness isn’t always directly related to how old you are.
Yes, as you get older your joints and muscles might get stiff if you don’t exercise regularly… and it’s true that your joints become less flexible as the lubricating fluid inside them decreases, and the cartilage becomes thinner as you age… But there’s some other points to factor in too.
Not drinking enough fluids and dehydration can also lead to stiff muscles. Muscles are active tissues, which means they’re the kind of tissue that requires the most water in the body.
Inactivity is another culprit – leaving your muscles in one place for a prolonged period (sleep, sitting in a chair, driving for hours etc.) can cause them to stiffen.
Another cause can be related to stress – when we’re in a state of stress, our bodies tighten up as preparation for a “fight or flight” situation. Prolonged stress can lead to you maintaining a tight posture, resulting in strain on the muscles
So what can you do to reduce the side-effects of stiffness? Here’s five quick and easy tips to add to your daily routine that will help you find a life with less stiffness no matter what age you are.
1. Stretch – daily. Ten minutes on a morning when you first wake up, and ten minutes on a night before bed. Doing gentle stretches just before bed can help you get a much better nights sleep as well. No equipment needed, just you and the comfort of your own home (and some good music if you like).
2. Walk – for at least ten minutes a day (even better, twenty if you can). Next time you need to make a long phone call, why not do it on your mobile and walk at the same time?
3. Avoid long periods of sitting – you’re better off laying stretched out on the sofa than you are sitting in a chair for long periods of time. We’re NOT designed to sit, and stretching out can be a nice relief for muscles and joints, especially if you’ve had a long day at work sat in a chair.
4. Take a warm bath – with epsom salt or baking soda. The heat and combination of epsom salt or baking soda will ease your muscles almost immediately and will calm your mind. The perfect way to end your day and unwind before getting a good nights sleep.
5. Drink plenty of water -Seventy percent of your muscles are water. So it makes sense that you need to drink plenty of water to support your body and keep it hydrated. My tip – have a glass of water by your bed ready for when you wake up on a morning, that way the first thing you do is drink a glass as soon as you wake to kick-start your day.
It’s sad but a lot of people accept stiffness in their life as though it’s normal and nothing can be done about it. Stiffness in your joints such as your neck, shoulders, back and knees is a sign that something needs to be done by you.
So there you have it, five things you can very easily put into action in your day as soon as today, to reduce stiffness and prevent it from making daily activities difficult to do.
Don’t accept stiffness as part of life, if you do and you don’t do anything about it, it’s likely to worsen and affect your ability to move freely.
P.S. If you’re experiencing stiffness in your back which restricts your ability to move without pain, click here to download my free back pain tips guide which includes actionable tips I give to my patients at Empire Performance PT.
Dr. Tony Tanzi: Physical Therapist, Triathlete, Runner, Performance Coach