Waking Up With RA: 6 Tips to Relieve Morning Stiffness

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the lining of the joints, resulting in inflammation that can lead to pain and joint deformity.

If you live with RA, you know that one of the most common and inconvenient symptoms of the disease is morning stiffness, which can hinder everyday activity.

Below are some expert tips to help warm up those cold, stiff and painful joints, so can you face whatever comes your way:

1. Set Two Alarms: One for Medication, One to Start Your Day

Before bedtime, make sure to take out your arthritis medication and set two alarms: one to take your medication and one for when you have to start your day.

When Alarm #1 goes off, take your medication. When Alarm #2 goes off, start your day. The hour between allows your joints to warm up. (For example, if you have to leave at 10, wake up at 8 for your medication and then lie back down until 9 to get moving.)

2. Utilize Heating Essentials

Keep some heating essentials nearby to put on when you wake up, such as:

  • A heating pad
  • Mittens
  • Socks
  • Warming salves and creams (e.g., Aspercreme®, Icy Hot®)

3. Exercise

After your joints have warmed up and the medication has kicked in, perform some range-of-motion exercises to loosen tight muscles, ligaments and tendons.

While remaining under the covers, flex and release the joints in your hands, wrists elbows and shoulders on one side at a time. Then, turn your head slowly from side to side to loosen your neck. Finally, flex and release your ankles, toes, knees and hips. When you officially feel less stiff and pained, get out of bed.

In fact—though it may sound counter-intuitive given how painful joint stiffness can be—walking at least 15 minutes and doing random range-of-motion exercises throughout the day are beneficial ways to keep joints in shape by strengthening the supportive tissues.  

4. Take a Shower

A hot shower following exercise is a great way to loosen up. The heat from the shower gets the blood flowing to the surface of your skin, which helps to flush out your joints. If bathing, soak for 10 to 20 minutes while rubbing your joints gently with a washcloth. 

5. Ease Into Activity 

Don’t panic about what needs to be done. Pace yourself when it comes to your morning activities. Doing so will make the act of performing those activities more tolerable until your joints are officially up and running.

6. Check in With Your Rheumatologist Regularly

Your rheumatologist can help you effectively manage your condition and symptoms by monitoring your medication and lifestyle. Be sure to schedule regular visits for optimal care to keep morning stiffness to a minimum and keep the extra warm-up time in the morning for sleep.

Meet Our Specialist

At Northeast Orthopedics and Sports Medicine (NEOSM), our rheumatologist specializes in all aspects of rheumatic disorders, including comprehensive diagnosis, treatment and continued care. As a practice, we are committed to utilizing the latest advancements to ensure patients receive the highest quality of care possible for this and other musculoskeletal disorders.