Severe, sharp pain in our joints or back will stop us in our tracks. It's a sign something serious is going on . . . and we better pay attention!
However, more often our active clients biggest complaint is just feeling stiff. It's usually worse in the morning and means they can't do things as easily as they would like. A big sign. . . they start buying slip on shoes because they can't tie their laces in the morning.
Often times they think this is normal. They loosen up as the day goes on or head to a desk job where flexibility isn't required. Fact is - bending forward, reaching your toes, or bringing your feet across your lap in a cross legged position are movements that should come easily (and comfortably) any time of day. If not, that stiffness is a sign joint pain is on it's way.
A lot of the problem is that people tend to think that if you’re stiff or a little achy after exercise or an activity, the answer is to rest until it goes away. Unfortunately, this is the opposite of what your body needs. Ultimately, what keeps away stiffness is movement. This does not require vigorous activity . . . more along the lines of gentle exercise on a regular basis.
Here are our best tips to loosen up stiff joints and keep your body moving:
1. Go for a swim
If your joints are stiff or sore, a swim is ideal. It's simple, safe, and moves your joints without added stress on them. Walk in the water, swim laps, or tread water. Just the movement of your body through the water will ease stiffness.
2. Go for a walk
Although swimming is great for your joints, walking is much more convenient. We don't mean a long hike and you don't have to be out of breath. Think more about fitting walking into your daily routine. Walk the dog 20 minutes in the morning, put on your sneakers during your lunch hour, or pick the farthest parking space at the store.
It might surprise you how much stretching can help your joints. It moves oxygen into your muscles so that you are able to move more easily and even increases your flexibility. Making a habit of stretching a few minutes in the morning and again before bed will help with any pains or signs of stiffness you experience in the morning.
4. Choose standing over sitting
Think of your typical day and the amount of time you spend sitting. Then think of times you could be doing the same activity standing. If the phone rings, would you normally sit down and talk? Take advantage of the time and get on your feet. If you are spending a long period sitting, take breaks to stretch out and relive those stiff muscles and joints.
The Take Home Lesson
It's very easy to accept that everyday stiffness as just something that happens, or a sign of getting older, and that there is nothing that can be done about it. But your everyday stiffness is what ultimately leads to neck, shoulder and back pain if it is ignored. Something can be done and needs to be done by you.
Move More! The design of our bodies is not for sedentary life. Our joints require movement for lubrication. Our muscles need to stretch to remain healthy. Remember every step counts to a less stiffer you!
If your stiff joints are already achy and painful, or the stiffness keeps you from activities you enjoy . . . it is not too late to make a change. Request a call from one of our Doctors of Physical Therapy who can answer all your questions about joint pain, injury, recovery, and the best exercises to get your life back. Click HERE and fill out a short form so we know how we can best help you make the best decision about your body and health.