- The Common Pain You Should Never Ignore
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Hand Pain and Problems
- Can Your Sleep Cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
- Are your finger joints stiff in the morning?
- Cause of the stiffness
- What can you do
- Waking Up Sore & Stiff in Morning (2019 Guide)
- Morning Stiffness Causes
- Health Habits
- Tips to Overcome Morning Stiffness
- Why Are My Hands Numb When I Wake Up and How Can I Treat This?
The Common Pain You Should Never Ignore
The hand is a miracle of engineering, but it has one design flaw: the tendons that control the fingers pass through a narrow tube in the cleft of the hand called the carpal tunnel.
The median nerve that controls all the fingers except the pinky is also squeezed into that narrow tube, so any inflammation or swelling puts pressure on that vital nerve.
Carpal tunnel is the injury that causes the longest absences from the workplace, but doctors are still not entirely sure what causes it.
It is known that diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes increase the risk. Women are three times more likely than men to develop CTS, perhaps because their hands are smaller and therefore the carpal tunnel is narrower. Pregnancy increases the risk further.
High-impact, repetitive movements involving extreme flexion of the hand can lead to carpal tunnel. Workers in slaughterhouses who carve meat off the bones of animal carcasses were some of the first to develop this crippling condition.
Many people believe that low-impact repetitive movements like typing can also bring on carpal tunnel, but not all doctors agree.
Whatever the cause, the signs are clear: pain, numbness, or weakness, especially in the three larger fingers and the thumb, which are controlled by the median nerve.
The first line of treatment is to wear a simple wrist-brace at night. Ice may also help. If these don’t end the symptoms after a couple of weeks, a doctor might prescribe a shot of cortisone.
If none of these measures work, surgery is an option. About half a million people each year have a procedure to sever the band of tissue that holds the carpal tunnel closed. This relieves pressure on the median nerve.
Sandy Huber, who had the surgery at the Mayo Clinic, said it was her passion for quilting that brought it on.
She had the classic symptom of pain in the three larger fingers. “At night and in the morning it would hurt a lot,” she said. “Two or three times a night it would wake me up.”
Sanj Kakar, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at the Mayo Clinic says carpal tunnel syndrome is the most common complaint he sees in patients coming to the hand clinic.
The surgery was successful for Huber, and she is now back at her sewing machine.
My first recommendation to these patients is to avoid bending the wrist and elbow for prolonged periods at night. How is this done? A simple wrist splint worn to bed can keep the wrist in a neutral position, which maximizes the diameter of the carpal tunnel, and minimizes chances of that nerve being pinched and awakening you. Similarly, a towel placed around the elbow, held with either tape or an Ace bandage, can be used to comfortably keep the elbow straight at night.
I tell patients, “If you don’t irritate the nerve for 6-8 hours while you’re sleeping at night, it tends to be much less irritable to you throughout the day.”
There are several non-surgical treatment options for carpal and cubital tunnel syndrome, such as splinting, anti-inflammatories, postural changes, and nerve gliding exercises. When these fail, surgery can oftentimes be very beneficial.
A research study published recently in the Journal of Hand Surgery assessed the quality of sleep in patients before and after carpal tunnel release surgery. In a study of 398 individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome, they found that carpal tunnel release surgery significantly improved quality of sleep as rated by seven aspects. After carpal tunnel surgery, patients had:
- Less difficulty falling asleep
- Easier time staying asleep
- Fewer problems waking up early
- More satisfaction with their sleep quality
- Reduction in sleep problems affecting quality of life
- Less worries about their sleep problem
- Improvement in daily functioning, concentration, and memory
The benefits were seen almost immediately after surgery, and all 7 of these variables were significantly improved as soon as 2 weeks after surgery.
Again, oftentimes carpal tunnel syndrome (and cubital tunnel syndrome) can be managed successfully without surgery. Unfortunately, non-operative management is not always successful. Surgical release of the compressed and pinched nerve can quickly decrease symptoms, and, it turns out, may make you feel much more rested.
Click here to read more about carpal tunnel syndrome and cubital tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
What Causes Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a localized peripheral neuropathy that affects the hands.
At the base of the hand is a narrow place between bones and ligament where the median nerve and tendons are found. This area is called the carpal tunnel. When the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, becomes pressed, squeezed or inflamed at the wrist, the result may be numbness, pain and weakness in the hand and wrist, frequently reaching up along the arm.
Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) may increase gradually. Signs of CTS usually are first noticed at night. Common symptoms include burning, tingling or numbness in the palm of the hand and along the fingers, especially the thumb, index and middle finger. These feelings may intensify to the point where it becomes difficult to hold small objects or to make a fist. The pain associated with this condition can range from mild-to-severe.
Carpal tunnel syndrome is typically the result of increased pressure on the median nerve and tendons in the carpal tunnel, rather than problem with the nerve itself. This pressure may be a result of arthritis, thyroid disease, trauma or injury to the wrist. CTS usually occurs in adults between 40 and 60 years of age, and is more common in women than men. In women, CTS may be caused by fluid retention due to pregnancy or menopause. Sometimes the exact cause of CTS cannot be identified.
CTS sometimes may be caused by work-related, repetitive activities that involve forceful or awkward movements of the wrist or fingers. However, a Mayo Clinic study (published in the June 2001 journal of Neurology), found that significant computer use (defined as an average of six hours per day) does not increase the risk of developing CTS.
If identified and treated as early as possible—with underlying causes such as diabetes or arthritis treated first—most people with CTS can relieve the pain and numbness and restore normal use of their wrists and hands.
Symptoms & Signs
(Not all carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms and signs may be present.)
In hand and fingers:
- Loss of movement
- Mild-to-severe pain (may experience pain at night)
- Decreased sensation
- Decreased strength
Other symptoms may include:
- Tendency to drop things
- Difficulty manipulating small objects
Evaluation & Tests
(Not all evaluation and tests may be necessary.)
- Physical examination
- Neurological evaluation
- Nerve conduction velocity test
Treatment & Therapy
(Not all treatments and therapies may be indicated.)
Treatment focuses on identifying and removing or correcting the underlying cause of the nerve dysfunction.
Treatment options include:
- Vocational or occupational counseling
- Wrist splint
- Over-the-counter pain medications (For severe pain, take over-the-counter pain medications and/or prescription drugs used for peripheral neuropathy, on a regular basis—rather than waiting until nighttime when symptoms can become more severe.)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome surgery
- Physical therapy to improve strength in the hand
- Take safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation
Hand Pain and Problems
A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms as a herniation from a joint capsule or tendon sheath. The sac is attached to the joint or tendon sheath by a “stalk” that allows fluid to move into the pouch from the joint or sheath. The stalk functions as a valve and often limits fluid drainage out of the cyst, allowing the cyst to increase – but not decrease – in size. In some cases the stalk functions as a two-way valve, allowing fluid to travel in both directions. This can enable the cyst to increase and decrease in size based on activities.
Two major problems associated with tendons include tendonitis and tenosynovitis. Tendonitis, inflammation of a tendon (the tough cords of tissue that connect muscles to bones) can affect any tendon, but is most commonly seen in the wrist and fingers. When the tendons become irritated, swelling, pain, and discomfort will occur.
Tenosynovitis is the inflammation of the lining of the tendon sheaths which enclose the tendons. The tendon sheath is usually the site which becomes inflamed, but both the sheath and the tendon can become inflamed simultaneously. The cause of tenosynovitis is often unknown, but usually strain, overuse, injury, or excessive exercise may be implicated. Tendonitis may also be related to disease (such as, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis).
Common tendon disorders include the following:
Lateral epicondylitis (commonly known as tennis elbow). A condition characterized by pain in the back side of the elbow and forearm, along the thumb side when the arm is alongside the body with the thumb turned away. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist backward away from the palm.
Medial epicondylitis (commonly known as golfer’s or baseball elbow). A condition characterized by pain from the elbow to the wrist on the palm side of the forearm. The pain is caused by damage to the tendons that bend the wrist toward the palm.
Rotator cuff tendonitis. A shoulder disorder characterized by the inflammation of the shoulder capsule and related tendons.
DeQuervain’s tenosynovitis.The most common type of tenosynovitis disorder characterized by the tendon sheath swelling in the tendons of the thumb.
Trigger finger/trigger thumb. A tenosynovitis condition in which the tendon sheath becomes inflamed and thickened, thus preventing the smooth extension or flexion of the finger/thumb. The finger/thumb may lock or “trigger” suddenly.
Treatment for most tendon problems may include:
Splinting or immobilization
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications
Can Your Sleep Cause Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
The surprising connections between sleep and CTS
I become interested in carpal tunnel syndrome when researching a few weeks ago a blog on Why Your Arms Go Numb At Night.
When you think of carpal tunnel syndrome, what comes to mind? For most of us, it’s probably a person toiling away at a keyboard. This painful condition that affects the arms, wrists and hands is strongly associated with overuse and overwork at a computer.
But there’s a lot more to carpal tunnel than the dangers of too much typing (though that is one very real carpal tunnel cause). How we sleep at night may be another factor that contributes to our risk of developing carpal tunnel. And once the condition presents itself, it poses a number of serious challenges to sleep.
What is carpal tunnel?
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a condition that causes sensations of tingling, numbness, and pain in the hand and arm. These uncomfortable, painful sensations are the result of excessive pressure on the median nerve, which runs through the arm and wrist to the hand.
The median nerve is a major nerve that helps control some hand muscles and delivers feeling to our fingers. As it travels through the arm to the hand, the median nerve passes through the carpal tunnel, which is a narrow opening at the wrist. This small tunnel can become narrowed, which leads to compression and pressure on the median nerve.
In addition to pain, numbness, and tingling, symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome include:
- Burning, itching sensations in fingers and hand
- Fingers that feel swollen and clumsy
- Pain and tingling that travel up the arm
- A strong urge to shake out hands to relieve discomfort
- Diminished strength and dexterity in hands, including difficulty with grip
Symptoms of carpal tunnel often first present themselves at night, in the form of numbness or tingling in the arm or hand. As the condition progresses, nighttime continues to be a time when carpal tunnel symptoms can be at their worst. Painful carpal tunnel symptoms often interfere with sleep.
What causes carpal tunnel syndrome?
Carpal tunnel is a relatively common condition that affects millions of adults. A recent study estimated that nearly 8 percent of working adults in the United States suffers from carpal tunnel syndrome.
Women are at significantly higher risk for developing carpal tunnel. Research shows women are at three times more likely to develop carpal tunnel than men. One possible reason for this is that the carpal tunnel in a woman’s wrist is smaller, making median nerve compression more likely. People with certain health condition, including diabetes and thyroid disorders, are also at higher risk for the condition. Other risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome include:
Repetitive use. People who engaged repeatedly in the same hand and wrist actions are at greater risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. That can be anything from carpentry and assembly work to typing and data entry. Research shows people who use vibrating hand tools repeatedly are particularly vulnerable to carpal tunnel.
Positioning of hand and wrist. Actions or positions that involve significant flexing or extending of the hand or wrist put pressure on the median nerve, and over time can lead to the development of carpal tunnel.
Trauma or injury. Injuries or trauma to the wrist, including sprains and fractures, can affect the carpal tunnel and contribute to compression of the median nerve.
Health conditions. In addition to diabetes and thyroid conditions, other health conditions can heighten risk for carpal tunnel syndrome. These include rheumatoid arthritis, an overactive pituitary gland, and cysts or tumors in the wrist. Women may be at particular risk for carpal tunnel during pregnancy and menopause, as a result of fluid retention.
Genetics. Hereditary traits can make the condition more likely.
The condition is typically progressive, meaning it gets worse over time if left untreated. Letting symptoms of carpal tunnel go untreated can lead to permanent nerve and muscle damage in the hands.
Does sleep position cause carpal tunnel?
Recently, prompted by a question from my son, I talked about a common sleep phenomenon many of us experience: why our arms go numb during the night. This uncomfortable loss of sensation is what’s known as paresthesia. (Informally, of course, we all refer to it as having our arm, leg, hand or foot “fall asleep.”)
Why does this occur? There are a number of possible reasons, but nighttime paresthesia often is the result of a nerve being compressed because of a sleep position that leads us to sleep with a wrist flexed or otherwise under sustained pressure or stress.
It’s an incredibly common sleep experience. Sleep scientists and others have wondered: does sleep position cause carpal tunnel syndrome? There is some research that explores this question of a causal relationship between sleep position and carpal tunnel. Some studies have found a strong association (though not a direct cause and effect relationship) between a side-sleeping position and the development of carpal tunnel syndrome, in men and in women.
Other research, including a recent study, report that other factors—specifically a higher body mass index and a flexed wrist during sleep, but not a side-sleeping position–are associated with nighttime paresthesia in people both with and without carpal tunnel syndrome.
These mixed results point to a relationship between sleep position and carpal tunnel that is not yet well understood. Given the frequency of the condition, and the level of pain, discomfort, and sleep disruption that can result from carpal tunnel, I hope we’ll see more attention paid to gaining a better understanding of how sleep position can affect the onset and progression of the condition.
How carpal tunnel syndrome disrupts sleep
People with carpal tunnel syndrome often struggle mightily to get enough sleep, and to sleep soundly throughout the night, for a number of reasons. Carpal tunnel symptoms are often worse at night. Lying down and moving very little can lead to the accumulation of fluid in the arm and hand, which puts additional pressure on the median nerve. Sleep position, especially how the wrist is positioned throughout sleep, can make symptoms worse and cause painful flare ups that wake people from sleep.
Most people with carpal tunnel syndrome—an estimated 80 percent, according to one study—have nighttime symptoms that cause them to wake at night. The result? Heightened difficulty with their ability to function normally during the day. This is a hallmark challenge that goes with chronic pain conditions. Another consequence of the poor sleep that often accompanies chronic pain? A greater sensitivity to pain and less resilience in one’s ability to manage the emotional challenges that often accompany chronic pain conditions.
Unfortunately, there’s been relatively little attention paid to the impact of carpal tunnel syndrome on sleep, including how it might further the progression of the condition, and lead to other health issues. That’s surprising, considering all we know about the significant two-way street between sleep and pain. As I said, I hope we’ll see this change soon!
Research does show that carpal tunnel has negative consequences for sleep, by a number of important measurements. A 2014 study found that carpal tunnel syndrome significantly reduced both sleep quality and sleep quantity. Among the carpal tunnel patients included in this study, researchers found they averaged a total sleep time of only 5.5 hours a night—that’s 2.5 hours less than the minimum general recommended nightly sleep amount of 7 hours. The study also found:
- Significant impairments to sleep quality among a majority of carpal tunnel patients
- Symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome lengthening the time it took patients to fall asleep
- A correlation between the severity of carpal tunnel symptoms and the severity of sleep disturbances, including the number of nighttime awakenings
- Carpal tunnel patients more likely to feel a need to use sleep medications to cope with their sleep problems
Earlier research demonstrated similar results, showing carpal tunnel patients suffering poor sleep quality and more fragmented sleep, as well as higher degrees of daytime sleepiness.
And two studies released in 2018 show the positive impact treating carpal tunnel syndrome can have on sleep. Both studies (which were conducted separately) examined the effects of carpal tunnel surgery on sleep, and found significant, immediate, and lasting improvements to sleep quality after surgery to relieve the impacted median nerve.
Ways to improve sleep when you have carpal tunnel
Severe cases of carpal tunnel syndrome that can’t be improved with other treatments may require surgery. But non-surgical options are almost always explored first. In cases where inflammation is believed to be a cause of carpal tunnel, physicians may recommend corticosteroid treatments or use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).
For many people with carpal tunnel, there are a number of non-surgical, non-pharmaceutical treatments that can bring about relief—and all of these treatments are likely to help improve sleep as they help ease symptoms of the condition. They include:
Wrist braces. Wearing a wrist brace at night can help hold the wrist in a stable position, preventing it from flexing. Wrist braces or splints are also used by people with carpal tunnel during the day. Nighttime use of a wrist brace may help you sleep more comfortably and soundly, and reduce your pain-related awakenings throughout the night.
Hand and wrist exercises. Recent research suggests that physical therapy is as effective as surgery in treating carpal tunnel syndrome. Seeing a physical therapist may bring lasting alleviation of symptoms that will deliver significant benefits for both daytime functioning and nighttime sleep.
There are simple stretching and flexibility exercises that physical therapists recommend people with carpal tunnel perform throughout the day. Here are a few suggestions. It’s important to talk with your doctor or physical therapist about your carpal tunnel symptoms and discuss using these exercises as one part of your treatment plan. Take it easy, and don’t push too hard or try to work through pain with these exercises, if you’re trying some simple ones at home.
Resting between repetitive movement activities. For people who suffer from carpal tunnel as a result of repetitive movement, taking regular breaks can reduce symptoms. This may help reduce the nighttime symptom flare ups that disrupt sleep.
Acupuncture. A 2011 study showed that a 4-week course of acupuncture provided lasting improvements to carpal tunnel syndrome in people with mild to moderate cases. Acupuncture has been demonstrated in studies to improve sleep, including as an effective treatment for insomnia. There is evidence acupuncture can improve sleep in people who are experiencing chronic pain.
In addition, try these sleep strategies for resting more soundly with carpal tunnel:
Be consistent. There’s no more important sleep tip than this one—for everyone. Falling asleep and waking up at the same time makes it easier to sleep well. For people with carpal tunnel syndrome, who so often struggle to get the rest they need, every sleep advantage matters. A consistent sleep schedule will help give you a leg up on getting the high-quality sleep you’re looking for.
Choose your sleep position with care. For people with carpal tunnel, protecting your wrist from flexing during sleep is important. That’s usually done most effectively by using a wrist brace at night. As I’ve discussed above, sleep position may contribute to the onset and progression of carpal tunnel syndrome. And a sleep position that strains or puts pressure on your wrist can certainly exacerbate pain.
For some people, a side sleeping position may increase the likelihood of your wrist becoming bent or put under pressure. (This may be particularly true of a fetal position, where your arms and legs curl into your body. A body pillow can help you sleep on your side without moving into a fetal position.) A stomach sleeping position may also increase the chances of wrist pressure during sleep. Everyone is different, so pay attention to what your body does at night, and take any questions or concerns to your physician or physical therapist. Whether on your back, your stomach, or your side, the best sleeping position for people with carpal tunnel is one that protects your wrists from strain and pressure throughout the night.
Get plenty of magnesium. I’ve written before about the benefits of magnesium as a natural sleep aid and pain reliever. Magnesium functions as an anti-inflammatory, and helps keep muscles relaxed and functioning normally. About half of the U.S. population is deficient in magnesium, so it’s a mineral worth paying attention to getting enough of. Magnesium is often taken as a supplement, and found in dark leafy greens, beans, whole grains, some nuts, as well as in meat and dairy products.
If you’re experiencing pain, stiffness, tingling or other discomfort in your hands or arms, don’t ignore it. Carpal tunnel is less disruptive to your life and your sleep, and easier to treat, when you start early.
Michael J. Breus, PhD, DABSM
The Sleep Doctor™
Are your finger joints stiff in the morning?
Stiff finger joints in the morning can be due to several reasons, including arthritis, pregnancy, previous trauma, and over-usage. However, it’s not all bad news; there are many lifestyle and dietary changes that can help make your morning routine more manageable.
Cause of the stiffness
The first step in reducing morning stiff finger joints is understanding the cause of the stiffness. Arthritis is one of the most common causes of finger joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Literally meaning “joint inflammation,” arthritis is a broad medical condition that affects joints and their surrounding tissues as well as other connective tissues in the body, and encompasses over 100 different rheumatic diseases and conditions.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most frequently diagnosed types of arthritis. Affecting 10 per cent of the Canadian population, osteoarthritis results from the degeneration of cartilage and typically affects the distal and proximal interphalangeal joints of the hand, as well as the spine, hips, knees, and feet.
Conversely, rheumatoid arthritis requires an underlying genetic susceptibility coupled with an inappropriate immune response, leading to a form of autoimmune chronic inflammation within the synovium that lines the cavity between joints. Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the proximal interphalangeal and metacarpophalangeal joints of the hands, in addition to the wrist, ankles and toe joints.
When determining the etiology of stiff finger joints, it is important to evaluate how long the stiffness lasts and when it occurs. If finger joints remain stiff following waking even after a few hours of movement, this is suggestive of a systemic inflammatory cause like rheumatoid arthritis. Alternatively, when stiff finger joints are immediately better with movement in the morning but aggravated by lengthy activity or exercise, osteoarthritis may be the underlying cause. And, it is possible to have both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis at the same time.
What can you do
Above all, a full diagnostic work-up by your primary healthcare provider is imperative to helping you best manage and understand your symptoms. In the meantime, there are several diet and lifestyle modifications that you can make to reduce symptom exacerbations and prevent further joint degeneration:
- Eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Consume foods high in omega-3 fatty acids on a daily basis, such as fish, walnuts, and avocados, and consider taking a daily fish oil supplement with at least 2000mg of combined EPA/DHA. A 2010 meta-analysis showed that fish oil significantly decreased joint stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis patients, and may have a similar effect in those suffering from osteoarthritis.
- Eliminate pro-inflammatory foods. Refined sugar, trans-fat, alcohol, and many dairy products should be avoided. Pro-inflammatory foods add extra inflammation in the body, and may aggravate morning finger joint stiffness.
- Maintain a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI). Keeping your weight in check through regular exercise will help reduce the stress placed on your joints, and will also increase your “feel good” hormones like endorphins and enkephalins. Strive to exercise three times per week for 45 minutes to 1 hour per session.
- Apply topical preparations for symptomatic relief. Trying Joint Pain Relief tablets or an Arnica Gel during flare-ups may help ease pain, swelling, and stiffness.
- Reduce daily stress. Since stress can worsen arthritis symptoms, participating in stress-reducing activities such as yoga or meditation may help relieve some symptoms.
If you have RA, early treatment can greatly limit joint damage. Your treatment plan will likely include these key parts:
Medications. There are different kinds of drugs that treat rheumatoid arthritis. You may need to take more than one. Some stop the disease from getting worse. Others ease symptoms of joint stiffness and pain.
Physical therapy and exercise. These will help you move better and with less pain. You can also use moist heat (like a warm shower) to loosen up stiff joints, and ice packs (or even a bag of frozen peas) to curb inflamed joints. Relaxation techniques also ease muscle tension. An occupational therapist can show you how to do everyday activities.
It’s also important to get to, and stay at, a healthy weight, so you don’t stress your joints. If you’re not sure what your weight goal should be, ask your doctor.
Pace yourself. Switch between periods of rest and activity. At least once a day, gently move your joints through their range of motion. If needed, use assistive devices to make your daily tasks easier.
Waking Up Sore & Stiff in Morning (2019 Guide)
You finally got your full eight hours of sleep, and then you woke up feeling stiff and sore. What’s up with that? Instead of feeling rested and rejuvenated you felt aches and joint pain.
There can be a number of things at play that are causing you to wake up feeling worse than when you went to sleep. Known injuries and back issues can often be a culprit of morning pain. But for some, that’s not always the case. Luckily, we’ve rounded up some potential causes and tips to tackle the morning pain, so you can wake up feeling refreshed and well rested.
Morning Stiffness Causes
While your asleep, your body remains in one position for a long period of time. When you hold this position in a way that doesn’t keep your spine aligned or exerts pressure on certain points, you can certainly feel the painful effects in the morning. If your positioning causes a portion of your body to be compressed or pinched, lactic acid can build up. Therefore, you might wake up feeling sore.
You most likely determined your preferred sleeping position years ago, so try studying what tweaks you can make to your sleep position to be sure you are doing it correctly. Whether it’s adjusting your shoulder placement or placing a pillow under your knees—tweaking your sleep position can prevent compression and pinching. Truthfully, it may feel odd at first and take a lot of effort to not revert back into your standard sleeping position. But, the long term benefits are worth it.
Waking up with a lot of stiffness in your neck could indicate that your pillow is to blame. The wrong pillow could still cause you morning stiffness even if you are snoozing in a proper position. Very important for your spinal alignment, a pillow is meant to keep your head in a neutral, healthy position.
Back sleepers and side sleepers tend to need loftier pillows, or ones that provide more support. If you fall under the category of stomach sleeper, a pillow with very low loft that lays almost flat is best. You want a pillow that keeps your nose in line with your spine, or the center of your body.
Sometimes, swapping out your pillow and some trial and error with your sleep position still won’t give you a pain-free morning. In most cases, those who experience chronic morning stiffness and pain should look to their mattress.
When examining the pain-inducing qualities of your mattress, you first want to look at firmness. Too many people are sleeping on the wrong mattress and wind up with a myriad of issues. If you find yourself waking up with a stiff and sore lower back, your mattress may be too soft. If joint and shoulder pain is a problem, your mattress may be too firm.
Your second step in examining your mattress, is looking at the materials. Contouring foam layers will comfort and support your body as you move and adjust throughout the night. Sophisticated technology that will reduce pressure—unlike springs that may increase pressure— is the best way to ensure that you are in proper alignment all night long. An adjustable base can sometimes aid in providing additional support, and can be a great solution for aiding with other sleep issues, such as snoring or acid reflux.
And don’t even get us started on the age of your mattress! If your mattress has fulfilled its life-span of about seven to ten years, you might want to think of getting a replacement. If you’re unsure if your mattress is too old, we’ve got an article to help you determine if it’s time.
You may have already heard that many health issues are linked to inflammation. New research from Manchester University revealed that the reason we are aching and sore in the morning is because the body suppresses inflammation while we sleep. Think of it as—when you wake up, your body’s natural ibuprofen hasn’t kicked in yet.
If you wake up feeling sore and stiff, but eventually feel pain-free throughout the day and at bedtime, then inflammation may be to blame. When we start moving around in the morning, the inflammation suppressing proteins activated while sleeping will begin to wear off. Which explains that once you begin your day, the pain begins to fade.
With age, the cartilage between joints stiffens and dries out. Lack of joint lubrication coupled with the stiffened cartilage can cause uncomfortable stiffness and pain.
Sometimes, inflammation can increase as we age as well. Slow and steady increase in chronic inflammation as we age has been dubbed as “inflammaging.” This inflammaging causes you to wake up in pain as your body experiences joint pain effects of both aging and inflammation.
Musculoskeletal conditions that impact joints, bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bursas can definitely result in waking up feeling in pain and unrested. If you have one of these conditions, such as arthritis, it may cause stiffness and discomfort after remaining in one position throughout the night. Read more about how sleeping affects arthritis. Talking to your doctor about how to abate these symptoms is the best route to go.
If you have an injury that prevents your body from adjusting your position throughout the night, the lack of movement can cause inflammation or stiffness. Try sleep position adjustments, like placing a pillow somewhere, so that you can maintain good circulation and feel more rested in the morning.
As we all know, what we eat can have a huge impact on our body. Foods can both increase or reduce inflammation in our bodies, so it’s important to know which foods might trigger it or counteract it. Foods to avoid are: sugary beverages/desserts, refined carbs, processed foods and meats, certain oils, trans fats, and alcohol. You can eat up the anti-inflammatory foods: fruits, veggies, high-fat fruits (avocados), fatty fish, nuts, peppers, spices, chocolate, and red wine.
If you’re looking for a diet to embrace, look no further than the mediterranean diet. It is famous for limiting inflammation, and you’ll find many dishes and ingredients align with the list we just provided.
Just as emphasizing a proper diet sounds redundant, exercise is all the same. Muscles and joints that are inactive are much more likely to experience morning pain and stiffness when compared to those that regularly exercise. The lack of activity means that your joints and muscles are not being stretched, strengthened, or circulated, all of which keeps your circulation strong and your joints lubricated.
However, too much activity can also have a negative effect. Engaging in physical activity that is high impact, or doing workouts incorrectly, can wear down muscles and joints. This stiffness can easily manifest itself when you wake up in the morning.
Tips to Overcome Morning Stiffness
- Get enough deep restorative sleep to repair your body (those full 8 hours!)
- Invest in a mattress that best suits your body type and needs
- Keep your room at the optimal 65-67 degrees Fahrenheit–too cool of a room may cause sensitive joints to become stiff
- Stretch in the morning–while laying in bed begin to slowly wiggle fingers and toes, then contract muscles and stretch
- Move slowly when you first get out of bed, and gently stretch
- Take a hot shower to loosen up and soothe aching
- Drink lots of water
- Engage in healthy diet and exercise habits
Why Are My Hands Numb When I Wake Up and How Can I Treat This?
The following are possible causes of waking up with numb hands.
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by compression on the median nerve in the carpal tunnel, which is a narrow passageway on the front of your wrist. Tingling and numbness are the most common symptoms. Weakness in grip strength may also occur.
Repetitive hand motions, like typing on a keyboard or using machinery, may trigger it, as can obesity or wrist trauma.
Cervical (neck) spondylosis
Cervical spondylosis is commonly caused by everyday wear and tear to the spinal disks in your neck with age.
This can cause signs of osteoarthritis, such as bone spurs, and bulging disks. Both can narrow the space in your cervical spine and place pressure on a nerve root or spinal cord, causing numbness and tingling in your arms and hands.
Cervical spondylosis can also cause numbness in the legs and feet, as well as neck pain and stiffness.
Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS)
TOS is a group of disorders that develop when nerves or blood vessels in the lower neck and upper chest area are irritated, injured, or compressed.
Numbness in the forearm, hand, and fingers are common symptoms of nerve compression, which can also cause pain in parts of your neck, shoulder, arm, or hand.
Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)
Peripheral neuropathy refers to several conditions that involve damage to your peripheral nervous system, which receives and sends signals between your central nervous system and the rest of your body.
There are more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathy and symptoms depend on the nerves affected. Symptoms can include:
- tingling and numbness
- sharp, stabbing pains
- buzzing sensation
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that causes high blood sugar. It happens when your body either doesn’t respond toinsulin effectively or doesn’t make enough.
Approximately half of all people with diabetes have some form of nerve damage, including peripheral neuropathy and carpal tunnel syndrome, which can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in your hands.
Pressure on your hands from your sleeping posture is a likely cause of waking up with numb hands. It can happen when you sleep on your arm or hand or in a position that puts pressure on a nerve. The temporary lack of blood flow can cause numbness or pins and needles.
Changing your position is typically enough to relieve your symptoms.
Chemotherapy and other medications
Chemotherapy and other medications can damage the peripheral nerves. Studies show that chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy affects between 30 to 68 percent of people undergoing treatment.
Other medications known to cause peripheral neuropathy include anticonvulsants, certain heart and blood pressure-reducing medications, and some antibiotics, including metronidazole (Flagyl) and Fluoroquinolones (Cipro, Levaquin).
Vitamin B-12 deficiency
Vitamin B-12 is essential to the functioning of your brain and central nervous system and your DNA synthesis. It’s also needed to make red blood cells.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency can be caused by a number of factors, such as age, family history, and certain medical conditions, such as gastritis and autoimmune diseases.
Vitamin B-12 deficiency symptoms may include numbness and tingling in the feet, muscle weakness, and decreased appetite.
Alcohol can damage nerve tissue when excessive amounts of alcohol are taken in. This is called alcoholic neuropathy.
People who drink too much may feel pain and tingling in their limbs. It isn’t uncommon to have deficient levels of certain vitamins and nutrients that the body needs for proper nerve function in the midst of alcoholism, as heavy alcohol use often coincides with a poor diet.
You may also notice:
- muscle weakness
- muscle cramps and spasms
- sexual dysfunction
Ganglion cysts are noncancerous lumps that grow along the joints or tendons in the wrists or hands. If a cyst presses on a nerve, it can cause numbness in the hands. A cyst may also be painful when pressed or may interfere with joint movement.
Most ganglion cysts go away without treatment.
A number of other diseases can cause numbness in the hands. Some of these include:
- rheumatoid arthritis
- multiple sclerosis
- Lyme disease
- HIV and AIDS
- Sjögren’s syndrome
- Guillain-Barré syndrome
- Raynaud’s phenomenon