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How to Beat Morning Body Stiffness and Start Your Day Right

Do you ever wake up feeling like you’ve been folded into a human pretzel? Your alarm buzzes but your body protests. It’s like your muscles and joints decided to stage a mutiny while you were sleeping, leaving you stiff as a board and twice as grumpy. 

That achy feeling when you first roll out of bed is something that happens to many adults. Maybe you had a strenuous workout the day before, had a restless night’s sleep or your mattress has seen better days. Or your aches and pains could be related to a medical condition, like arthritis

Whatever the cause, there are some ways you can beat or reduce the amount of morning stiffness you experience and start your day on the right foot. 

Why do I feel stiff in the morning?

You may catch yourself saying “I’m just getting old,” but old age alone does not cause morning stiffness.  

“There can be several reasons for morning stiffness, including just being static and not moving all night when sleeping,” said Joseph Davis, a physical therapist with Banner Health. 

Here are a few of the most common causes:

  • Lack of movement: During sleep, your body takes a break from its usual physical activity. While this rest is important for recovery, it can also mean your muscles and joints don’t get the regular movement they need to stay limber. As a result, you might wake up a bit stiff and creaky.
  • Sleeping position: Your choice of sleeping position can impact how your body feels in the morning. Whether you’re a side sleeper, back sleeper or prefer an unusual position, certain sleep postures can leave your muscles and joints feeling tight and stiff.
  • Arthritis and inflammatory conditions: Joint stiffness that lasts for an hour or longer after you wake up could be a familiar companion of forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and osteoarthritis. These conditions can cause inflammation in your joints, especially after periods of inactivity like sleep.
  • Dehydration: Hydration is vital in maintaining joint health and flexibility. If you’re not drinking enough water throughout the day, your body may struggle to lubricate your joints effectively, leading to stiffness and discomfort in the morning.

How to feel better

The good news is that there are plenty of simple tricks and exercises you can do to shake off that stiffness. Here are a few tips to get you going:

Wake up and stretch: “Moving in the morning, especially with stretching, will help reduce morning stiffness,” Davis said. 

Try some simple exercises to gently wake up your muscles and improve flexibility:

  • Neck rolls: Slowly roll your head in a circular and counterclockwise rotation to loosen up your neck muscles.
  • Shoulder shrugs: Raise your shoulders toward your ears, hold for a few seconds and then relax. Repeat several times to release tension in your shoulders.
  • Arm circles: Extend your arms out to the sides and make small circles with your arms, first clockwise and then counterclockwise, to loosen up your shoulder joints.
  • Leg raises: While lying in bed, lift one leg off the mattress and hold for a few seconds before lowering it back down. Repeat with the other leg to gently wake up your lower body.
  • Single-leg hug: Lie on your back with both legs extended. Bend one knee and hug it towards your chest, holding it with both hands for a gentle stretch. Hold for 15-30 seconds before switching to the other leg.
  • Cat-cow stretch: Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, with your wrists under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Inhale as you arch your back, dropping your belly toward the floor and lifting your chest and tailbone toward the ceiling (cow). Exhale as you round your spine toward the ceiling, tucking your chin and tailbone (cat). Continue flowing between cat and cow for 5-10 rounds, focusing on smooth movement of your spine and stretch of your back.
  • Torso twists: Sit on the edge of your bed with your feet flat on the floor. Place one hand on your opposite knee and gently twist your torso towards that side, holding for a few seconds before switching to the other side.

Take a warm shower: There’s nothing like a warm shower to melt away aches and pains. The heat helps to relax your muscles and joints, making it easier to move around.

Lifestyle changes: “Regular exercise and physical activity, a healthy diet and proper hydration can also reduce overall stiffness,” Davis said. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.

Proper sleep position: Ensure your sleeping posture supports your body’s natural alignment with pillows to support your neck, back and knees.

Take your medicine: Don’t forget to take your prescribed medications to help with joint discomfort and morning stiffness.

Manage stress: Stress can contribute to muscle tension and stiffness. To manage stress, practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation or mindfulness.

Massage therapy: Give yourself a gentle massage or get one from a professional who can help your muscles feel better and less stiff.

Use assistive devices: Consider using products like ergonomic pillows, braces or orthotics to help support proper body alignment and reduce strain on your joints.

Physical therapy: See a physical therapist who can provide personalized exercises to address your stiffness issues.


Morning stiffness might be a common annoyance, but it doesn’t have to ruin your day. By incorporating simple habits like stretching, regular exercise and other lifestyle changes, you can say goodbye to morning stiffness and start your day feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world.

If your stiffness is severe or has other symptoms like swelling, tingling and numbness, it’s important to see your health care provider or a Banner Health specialist. And if you ever experience stiffness along with chest pain, sweating and a racing heart, call 911 or seek emergency medical attention.

For related blogs, check out:

Physical Therapy Rheumatology Wellness