Published: February 28, 2010
Whether you are awakened by an alarm clock, the morning sun or a poke in the side from your spouse, the first early-morning moments often set the tone for the remainder of your day.
Wake up feeling refreshed and energetic … it’s going to be a great day. Wake up stiff, in pain, or still haggardly clutching the idea of more sleep … maybe not such a great day.
This article has some suggestions that might help you learn to brighten your mornings a bit. It’s possible the change could come as early as tomorrow!
First of all, let me state what should be an obvious disclaimer: This is not a solution for all morning pain problems, and you should always see your healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis of pain before trying self-treatment.
However, the hints and tips below may bring at least some restoration of vitality and comfort. If in doubt, do not do any exercise without a professional evaluation.
One of the most common morning ailments reported to me is back pain. People frequently ask what mattress they should purchase to get rid of the pain. It may or may not be time to replace your mattress, but let’s try some other approaches first, in case the mattress is not the problem.
Morning back pain can be caused by a number of problems. That is why I always begin with a thorough history and physical examination of patients that have this complaint.
Often the problem is related to a lack of function in the spinal or pelvic joints. In many cases gentle spinal manipulation might be required to improve this situation, but in some cases home exercises can help.
There are so many various conditions that can affect spinal function that I cannot recommend a universal exercise that would be helpful or safe for everyone, but the following stretches should be well tolerated by most. (As always, if it hurts or seems wrong, don’t do it … get a professional examination!)
Do this before going to bed. Start by getting on your hands and knees. Slowly arch your back up, then down; like a cat stretches. Repeat this a few times until you feel your back loosen up. Now stand with your feet straight ahead and knees slightly bent. Gently turn your head and shoulders from side to side so that your torso twists. Repeat until your mid-section feels more relaxed.
These are supposed to be gentle stretching movements, not aerobic exercise. Repeat this for a few days and see if it helps.
Many people come to see me about morning foot pain. The most common problem is known as plantar fasciitis. This condition usually causes sharp pain in the arch of the foot and can cause great pain with the first few steps in the morning.
Most cases will respond to foot and ankle manipulation along with therapy and some exercises that I teach in the office. In some cases medical treatment such as injections or rarely surgery are required and it may be necessary to see a podiatrist. (Don’t wait until it gets that bad.)
One of the home exercises I often recommend is the lower leg stretch. In the evening before going to bed, stand on a step with one foot completely on the step and the ball of the other foot resting on the step with the heel protruding off.
Gently lower the heel below the edge of the step to stretch the calf muscles. Do this slowly and carefully. Repeat a few times until you can feel the calf relax. Don’t overdo it.
There are many other types of morning pain that can be alleviated with the right treatment. Instead of starting your morning with pain relievers and all their common or dangerous side effects, learn how to solve the problem.
By doing some gentle stretches in the evening before going to bed you may be able to improve your rest and wake up feeling more refreshed and comfortable.
Next week: Spring is coming and you’re anxious to get outside. Take the Post’s exclusive Spring Readiness Test to see if your body can handle it!
Dr. Mark Kestner