Updated: Apr 26
Why does my body hurt when I first wake up? Are these aches and pains a normal part of aging? Learn the cause and some simple lifestyle changes that may reduce or stop the aches altogether.
You know that feeling. When you first wake up in the morning you feel like the Tin Wood Man in need of oiling. Once you start moving you feel a bit better, but the next morning it may start again. This is different from those who suffer from chronic pain – that is relentless and can affect one’s ability to function.
Age and Inflammation
Why do so many people get achier as they age? One of the main reasons is inflammation. As we age our immune system often weakens and we are more prone to having inflammation in our bodies. This may be causing those aches and pains. This is chronic low-grade inflammation and even has a name:
Without going into the scientific process, when we suffer from inflammation, we have more fluids that press against our tissues and that causes pain. When we lie down to sleep, the fluids can accumulate in certain areas and when we wake up we feel more aches. As we start to move, the fluids spread out and we feel better.
When a client comes to me with pain from a sports’ injury, the first thing I ask is if the pain is worse when they take that first step in the morning. If the answer is yes – I begin to check for inflammation and try to reduce it. For example, If someone is suffering from pain in their foot, I’ll suggest raising their leg slightly while they sleep so the fluids won’t accumulate in the foot. I suggest putting a pillow or blanket under the mattress to raise the foot so they won’t wake up all night trying to put their leg on a pillow. For many, raising the leg can bring some morning pain relief.
Aches May Be the Least of Your Worries
When chronic inflammation causes pain you are aware of it, but unfortunately having chronic inflammation is dangerous for many other reasons that you can not feel:
“systemic low-grade inflammation appears to be a key player in the development of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, Alzheimer's disease and cancer.
J Physiol. 2009 Dec 1 Anti-inflammation – just another word for anti-ageing?
Please read that over again. Chronic inflammation may be the cause of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and cancer. Those aches and pains you are feeling may be your red flag to make a change! You can try making some simple lifestyle changes to improve your health and reduce inflammation. The great thing is you will know if you have succeeded. You will have less aches.
Eating to Reduce Inflammation
A research review showed that the main diet associated with increased inflammation is meat-based while a plant-based diet is associated with less inflammation.
Have you ever noticed when you ache more? Try to keep a food journal for a week or two. Write down what you eat each day and write down your pain level. You may see some specific foods that are causing you more pain.
Many athletes who have moved over to a plant-based diet, which means no meat or animal products, including no eggs or milk products, have found that their recovery time after working out or competing is quicker because they have less inflammation. The movie The Game Changers interviewed many of these athletes.
Since becoming a vegan, I have much less achiness, but when I do feel achy after working out, it is normally after eating sweets or other empty carbs like white bread or pita. I have also found that eating green leafy vegetables reduces the aches I have from inflammation. Many clients go on a plant-based diet plus cut out sugar and wheat for 2 weeks to see if it affects their achiness. If it does, then they can slowly figure out which foods are the culprits. It doesn’t mean that they can never eat some food again, but if they do, they will know to expect some achiness.
Spice Up to Reduce Inflammation
Certain spices can reduce inflammation. There was a very interesting research project that had participants only eat a specific spice with their meals for a week in amounts that one would use for adding to dishes – not mega doses.
After the week the participants gave blood and the researchers tested which participants' blood had the strongest anti- inflammation properties. The participants that used Rosemary, Ginger, Turmeric or Clove were the winners. Their blood reduced inflammation.
These spices apparently do the job better than meds, but without the dangerous side effects! You can read the article, but it’s much more interesting to hear Dr. Greger explain this research in this video:
In the winter I buy turmeric root and cut thin slices to make a tea. I normally also add slices of ginger root. It keeps me warm and hopefully healthy during the winter season.
Exercise for Inflammation
Our body clears out fluids through our lymph system. It’s like our sewage system and when our lymph system is not working well it’s harder to clear out toxins and inflammation.
Our heart moves our blood, but we do not have a pump that moves our lymph. Our movement helps move the lymph along. This is why exercise is so important. For moving the lymph it does not need to be aerobic exercise. Research shows that just walking for 20 minutes can reduce inflammation!
So set the timer on your smart phone to 10 minutes. Go take a walk. When the timer rings, turn around and walk back. Don’t try to do more. Make taking a walking break easy so you will easily go out again for a 20 minute walk.
Stress and Inflammation
Since prehistoric man, our bodies react to danger with the Fight or Flight Response. When we need to be able to flee or fight a saber tooth tiger or a vicious dog on our street, our body closes down systems in order to allow all our blood to flow to our arms and legs so that we can either run away quickly or fight the danger. As soon as the threat passes, we return to our regular state and all our body systems return to work as usual.
We have a problem when we are in a constant state of stress. it effects our body systems and they are compromised. When we are stressed, we can have increased inflammation due to our lymph and immune system not working as they should.
Many times an athlete will come to me for a sports’ injury – for example with pain in their foot. When we begin to talk about possible reasons for the pain they may include new athletic shoes, working out too much or doing too many up hill workouts. After we cover the possible physical reasons, I also always check if there may be something else going on in their lives that is stressful. I can not tell you how many of my clients who come with inflammation pain are also going through something stressful in their life. It could be stress at home, with their partner or at their place of work.
We could work and work on reducing the inflammation, but it most probably won’t get better in the long term until we reduce the stress as well.
How to reduce stress in order to reduce inflammation? My first choice of course is reflexology. :-) Most people feel very relaxed when they receive reflexology. By getting regular reflexology sessions you reteach yourself what it is like to be in a relaxed state and not in constant stress. There are other methods you can try to use to reduce stress. Meditation is also a great way to get out of the cycle of chronic stress. If you have never tried or have tried to meditate but have not succeeded, you can learn how to meditate in this article.
Find whatever method works for you, but if stress is keeping your lymph and immune system from working properly and is causing chronic inflammation, please take steps to learn how to relax to prevent illness.
Sleep Getting a good night’s sleep is also very important. When we sleep our body works to heal itself. Lack of sleep may not allow the body to reduce inflammation. If you are having trouble sleeping read here.
Aches and pain may be age related, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make changes to reduce them. Choose one of the ways you can reduce chronic inflammation and try a lifestyle change for 2 weeks. It’s so easy to monitor if this change is working because you will feel less aches. -----
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