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Stiffness in muscles and joints can be debilitating, especially in the morning when you want to get up and go. Stiff joints aren’t a sign of aging alone, it could be your body telling you something more serious is going on. But why do you get stiff joints in the morning? Read on to find out why, and what you and your loved ones can do about it.
Why Joints Might Be Stiffer in the Morning
Morning stiffness does not occur with age alone, it is one of the most common symptoms of joint conditions. In an affected joint, there may be less cartilage and less synovial fluid which means less lubrication for the joint. After a night of resting, the joints become stiff, and as muscles and tendons tighten, mobility is affected. Stiffness will go away through gentle motion as muscles and joints warm up, however morning stiffness will commonly last longer if something more serious is going on.
It Is Not So Simple as Aging
A healthy joint is lined by cartilage and a synovium membrane, which produces the lubricating synovial fluid. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments surrounding the joint provide support and allow for smooth, comfortable muscle movement. However, as we age, the manufacture of synovial fluid is less than the amount naturally broken down. This results in a thinning of the fluid, which contributes to the wearing of cartilage and the loss of mobility. Proper sleep, lifestyle choices, and a good diet should support our joints as we age.
What Can Be Done?
Exercise is important for both the symptoms and to support recovery from daily use. Increased physical activity can help to manage weight and enhance muscular strength, which will reduce the pressure placed on the joint.
Sleep is paramount when it comes to recovery from daily use of joints. A recent study found that short and long sleep duration were positively associated with joint problems in middle-aged and older women, whereas 7-8 hours, or what is considered “optimum” was inversely associated with joint issues.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines (and in fish oil supplements) can support joint health. Omega 3s are also found in other animal fats. Plant omega 3s are poorly converted in the human body and should not be relied solely upon.
Turmeric and Boswellia are 2 herbs with a long history of supporting joint health. Turmeric is a potent antioxidant and very supportive in joint recovery.
Magnesium maintains nerve and muscle function, relaxing the muscle and reducing tension. As a cream it can be applied directly and is quickly absorbed.
Vitamin D deficiency is essential to maintain joint health, as low Vitamin D reduces the body’s ability to absorb calcium, affecting the muscles and the joints. Ensure you are making the most of the longer daylight hours and soak up Vitamin D from the best source available, the sun. Keep sun smart and cover up in the middle of the day before burning.
Joint stiffness can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to mean that you sacrifice the things you love. There are many ways you can support your body through diet and lifestyle changes, for freedom of movement and quality of life.
Can supplements alone relieve joint stiffness, or should they be combined with other treatments?
Supplements such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and relieve joint pain and stiffness. However, they work best when used with other treatments such as exercise, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.
Are there any dietary changes that can help with joint stiffness?
Yes, adopting an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help reduce joint stiffness by reducing inflammation.