Sufferers of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) will tell you that the most difficult symptom to deal with is morning stiffness. With nearly 90 percent of people with RA experiencing some form of morning stiffness, it is safe to say that the disorder can significantly decrease a person’s quality of life and overall activity level. Although RA stiffness will usually ease throughout the day, it can be an uncomfortable and often dreaded experience to wake up to.
“At the heart of the problem is prolonged joint inactivity, something that’s unavoidable while you’re asleep,” says John M. Davis III, MD, a rheumatologist and an associate Professor of Medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Davis also believes that your body’s natural circadian rhythms could be contributing to the problem, with a night time surge of inflammatory cells triggering early morning joint inflammation.
Thankfully, you don’t have to suffer from RA joint stiffness in silence. There are a number of helpful tips you can apply – even before you start your day – that can help to ease the symptoms and start your day with ease.
Take your medication right after you wake. Simply put, taking your medication as soon as you wake helps ease the symptoms as quickly as possible. Leave some water and your medication on your night stand so you don’t have to rush out of bed in the morning.
Set your alarm early – RA sufferer Jessica Gottlieb suggests setting an alarm early and booting up your thermostat. The extra time and warmth from the thermostat gives her an extra half-hour of warming up her joints before she gets out of bed.
Use a heating pad or hot water bottle. Warming up your joints will ultimately minimize stiffness and pain. “My feet feel like my bones are made of glass in the morning,” Jessica admits, “but if they’re warm, I’m better off.”
Performing a range of gentle exercises when you wake up will help stretch and loosen the joints in your hands, wrists, feet and any other areas bothered by stiffness.
One of the most important things to remember when suffering from RA symptoms is that you’re allowed to ask for help. An extra pair of hands in the morning can make a world of difference in the quality of your day.