FITNESS AND WELLNESS
Make Your Mornings Better
Not a week goes by, especially at this time of the year, when we don’t get a call from people requesting therapy “as soon as possible” due to severe low back pain and stiffness first thing in the morning. Typically, these patients complain of intense back pain while trying to get out of bed, and refuse early morning appointments for fear of being in too much pain.
With temperatures now dropping into the 30’s and 40’s when the alarm clock goes off, jumping out of bed and getting your day started becomes even more difficult. While we are all guilty of hitting ‘snooze’ on the alarm clock for an extra 10 minutes of being snuggled under covers, making this a habit will only make it more difficult to get out of bed and worsen your back pain. The thing is, spending more time in bed will do the exact opposite to what most people think it will do. It actually won’t make you feel more awake, It will make you feel more tired and stiff.
With that in mind, here are some tips that we regularly recommend to our patients that help them get out of bed feeling fresh, more alert, and with fewer aches and pains.
1. Don’t Hit Snooze
When your alarm clock goes, get up within a minute. Resist the temptation of hitting snooze and snuggling, or you’ll most likely wake up groggy and sleepier than before. Now is a great time to drink your first glass or two of water, as well as shower and/or go for a morning walk to help naturally wake you up and set you up for a great day!
2. Set Your Alarm at The Same Time Every Day
This includes weekends, too (naps are great anyway, right?). If you can get into a routine and form a good habit, you won’t mind waking up early and being productive, even on weekends. You’ll be shocked at what you can get accomplished (and feel great about doing) if you get up early on weekends and stick to your week-day habit.
- Set A Timer for Your Bedroom Heater
In this day and age of ‘smart homes’, you can try setting your heater to warm up your bedroom 10 to 15 minutes before your alarm is set to go off. This will help get rid of that initial ‘shock’ of having to jump right out of bed into a cold room!
4. Take Some Time to Breathe
You will instantly feel better and more alert if you use this simple technique. Before climbing out of bed, slowly inhale through your nose so that your belly rises but your chest does not. Hold your breath here for a couple of seconds before slowly exhaling through your mouth. Repeat 10 times.
5. Be Grateful, And Think
It’s natural to wake up thinking about all your chores and the hectic day that is ahead of you. To combat this instant anxiety and stress, use the first couple of minutes of your daily routine to plan out your day and make a mental note of how you will be successful. On top of that, take a few moments to be thankful for everything you have in your life right now.
6. Stretch A Little to Get the Blood Moving
Now that you have extra time (because you haven’t hit the snooze button), you can perform the ‘Big 3’ movements to help get the blood, nutrients, and lubricants moving throughout your body. By getting your body in motion early on, it will take the initial shock and stress out of those first steps and will allow you to be less fearful of any flare ups.
What are the ‘Big 3’ movements? Here they are:
Modified Curl Up.
Start on your back, with one leg bent and the other straight. With both of your hands under your lower spine, you’re going to slowly curl your body up towards your legs. Make sure that the natural arch in your spine is maintained throughout the motion. Once your shoulders are about 30 degrees off of the floor, slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times, making sure not to hold your breath!
Start on your hands and knees. Keeping a flat back (imagine a glass of water resting on the middle of your spine), raise one arm and the kick the opposite leg straight back slowly. Slowly return to the starting position and perform the same motions with your opposite limbs. Repeat 10 times, making sure to control the motion and squeeze your shoulder blade and gluteal muscles throughout.
Start on your side, and prop yourself up on your elbow. Make sure that your elbow is directly under your shoulder. Align your spine so that your body is as straight as possible, and slowly lift your hips off of the ground. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 5 times on each side.
A native of Sheffield, England, Matthew Turner moved to North Carolina in 2016, with his wife Rachael, and has worked in an outpatient orthopedic setting, specializing in manual therapy. Matt is the Facility Director and lead physical therapist for the PHOENIX Rehabilitation and Health Services, Charlotte location. Matt's clinical expertise focuses on outpatient orthopedics, post-operative conditions, concussion, and sports/work-related injuries. Matt underwent post-graduate training with NAIOMT and is a Certified Manual Physical Therapist. He is also certified in Dry Needling and Blood Flow Restriction Training.