Why Morning Stiffness?
As we slowly start getting into the cooler seasons, many people will notice sore joints waking up in the morning, or that movement has become stiff, or even headaches increasing in frequency or severity. Why is this?
It turns out that cold weather can have a significant impact on your body’s tissues. Notably, the connective tissue gives our muscles and joints the ability to move as they do, called elastin. As the name suggests, elastin is one of the critical components that provide our joints and muscles with the ability to bend, stretch, and move as they need to get you through the day.
Now, imagine putting a rubber band in the freezer for a few hours. You take it out and then stretch it as hard as you can without warming it up.
It’s either not going to stretch as well as it should or break in two. Elastin shares these properties. Under cold temperatures, the tissue cannot stretch or bend as well as it is supposed to, causing stiffness or soreness. Coupled with a few other common changes in the cold, vasoconstriction causes a decrease in your blood circulation. Plus, the tendency to stay home and not move our bodies makes many of us unaccustomed to cooler temperatures feel the full brunt of these effects moving forward.
The good news is, it’s a relatively easy fix. Stay warm. If you’re planning on exercising, make sure to perform a dynamic warm-up to decrease the risk of injury, rather than pushing a cold muscle past its limit (remember the rubber band). If a joint feels stiff in the morning, remedy this with a heat pack or a hot shower. If you suspect your headache cause is the cold, slap on a beanie. This head-warming has the added benefit of hiding a bad hair day.
Another excellent fix is getting a massage. Soft tissue therapy such as massage excels at combating several things caused by the cold. The physical act of heating a muscle or joint with friction provides warmth to deep tissues that a heat pack may not reach, allowing the elastin to function as it should. Trigger point work into deep muscle fibres may also bring longer-lasting relief than superficial heat therapy or static stretching.
If you’re prone to feeling the cold effects, massage therapy may be the fix that you have been looking for if you want to achieve long-lasting relief from stiff or sore joints and muscles this winter.