Submitted by Dr. Jennifer Penrose of Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy
I wanted to answer a common question I get asked all the time at Penrose Physical Therapy about being stiff: “Jennifer, 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 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. Back pain, or even just stiffness have multiples factors involved.
What Else Is at Play?
Not drinking enough fluids can also lead to stiff muscles. Muscles are active tissues, which means they require 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. Many of us are guilty of this during the quarantine! 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. This tightness compresses your back and can lead to back pain. Magnesium deficiency also causes more muscle tension and cramps.
Here’s 7 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.
- 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 too. Stretching causes the parasympathetic nervous system to calm your body down and has a relaxing affect that we all need right now!
- Walk. For at least 10 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?
- 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 – it is the new smoking!
- 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.
- Drink plenty of water. 70% 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. It’s sad but a lot of people accept stiffness in their life as though it’s normal.
- Participate in Yoga class! We have a virtual yoga class that is perfect for the 50+ crowd due to osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. Reach out to attend a class for free for the first time!
- Take Magnesium before bed! Magnesium is the “anti-stress” mineral and 50% of us are deficient! This causes your muscles to relax, helps regulate cortisol so you can SLEEP better and decreases anxiety.
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.
And if you want 3-5 minutes of mini movement breaks throughout your day follow us on YouTube for mini virtual recess/movement breaks.
We at Penrose Physical Therapy are happy to help! Visit the Penrose & Associates Physical Therapy website or call 360-456-1444. We are located less than 3 miles from Jubilee across from Walmart in the Harborstone Credit Union building: 1445 Galaxy Dr. Suite 301, Lacey.