Morning Arthritis Pain

Young woman stretching after waking up

In a perfect world, you’d wake up every morning feeling alert, refreshed, and ready to take on the world. The reality is that many people with osteoarthritis start their days with joint pain in the morning, which may make it difficult to move around or even get out of bed. Learn what may be leading to your AM aches and pains, as well as how to alleviate them.

What Causes or Contributes to Arthritis Pain in the Morning?

Although everyone’s body is different, many people find that their stiffness and joint pain can seem worse in the morning. Morning joint pain and stiffness can result from a couple of different factors. For those that live with arthritis, inflammation may be the culprit. When you’re moving around, the tissue around your joints creates a fluid that provides lubrication, allowing your bones to move past each other without friction. During the day when you’re active, your joints are lubricated, so there’s less pain. But when you’re sleeping, you’re moving around less, which means there’s less fluid surrounding your joints. This can lead to inflammation, stiffness, and pain in the morning, but will likely subside as you start your day and begin to be more active. 1, 2, 3

How to Alleviate Morning Arthritis Pain

If you are constantly waking up with pain in your hands, fingers, and other joints, you may need to speak with your doctor. However, a simple lifestyle change may be all that’s needed to alleviate morning joint pain. Here are a few strategies to help relieve your early morning joint pain:

  • Take your vitamins. Vitamin D helps your muscles and bones stay in good condition, and many people don’t get enough of it in their diets. Speak with your doctor about supplements and foods with higher amounts of vitamin D. 1, 3
  • Exercise regularly. Since movement lubricates your joints, adding exercise to your daily routine may help to curtail pain and stiffness. Don’t go for a run too close to bedtime or overtrain—both of these activities can lead to insomnia. Another way to keep your body healthy and avoid pain is to maintain your muscles by lifting light weights, doing bodyweight squats, and yoga. 1, 3
  • Tone down the alcohol. Alcoholic drinks may make you drowsy, but they can negatively impact the quality of sleep you’re getting. Some report that alcohol contributes to brain fog, morning stiffness, and general pain. 2
  • Introduce anti-inflammatory foods into your diet. If your joint pain is caused by arthritic inflammation, cutting out inflammatory foods may help with morning joint pain. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, seafood, and whole grains can help provide your body with the antioxidants that help fight inflammation. 1, 2
  • Try stretching. Talk to your doctor about simple stretches you can do to help yourself ease into your day if you often wake up with joint pain. Or, try slow activities like tai chi or simple water exercises in the swimming pool. 2
  • Take an NSAID. If you experience arthritis pain and swelling in the morning, taking an oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDS) or using a topical NSAID may help provide relief. 4

If you consistently experience arthritis pain after waking up, make adjustments to your morning routine to avoid unnecessary pain and discomfort. For instance, if going up and down stairs is difficult due to morning knee pain and you live in a multi-level home, consider moving your bedroom to the same floor as the kitchen or other rooms you use regularly every morning. If your morning finger and hand pain makes cooking uncomfortable, consider prepping your breakfast the night before or investing in an automatic coffee maker. Take note of what is difficult due to morning joint pain and tweak your routine to make life easier and more comfortable for yourself.

We hope this article has helped you better understand how you can help make mornings with painful, stiff joints more comfortable. If you’re not able to manage your morning joint pain with lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor about the treatment options available.

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