I had a really interesting discussion/evaluation with a patient the other day. His primary interest was stem cells and TA-65 but we got to talking about some common symptoms he was experiencing that he had questions about.
“Doc first why do I need to stretch and do the tissue mobilization stuff every morning? I wake up stiff as a board and then within an hour I am fine. I go to bed limber but next morning it’s like I never stretched at all! What is that all about?”
This is a pretty common problem for both men and women starting in their 40’s and 50’s. Most people assume that it is the “beginnings of arthritis” and in some ways they may very well be right.
But what is actually happening is that when we sleep at night we do not move very much (even if you are one who rolls around all over the bed!). Compared to the daytime our muscles are lax and our movements very limited. Lots of people sleep in one position for well over an hour with minimal movement. Couple this with not drinking and not keeping up with hydration and you have a recipe for fascial binding.
The fascia is something I have talked about in the past. It’s a saran wrap like wrapping that covers most muscles joints and nerves. In many ways it’s the glue that holds the body tissues together and gives them shape. The problem is that just like glue it can get sticky especially when the water content of the body drops and we become immobile.
In the morning most people will drink at least some water and begin to move, thus unsticking the fascia.
If you practice Yoga, Pilates, or ball work for tissue mobilization in the morning you are unsticking the fascia.
So what can you do about morning stiffness? Well drink more during the day and during the night even if you have to get up to go to the bathroom more. Next unless there is a medical reason not to add some salt to your evening meal (gasp!) Yeah I said salt! You can spend a lifetime popping potassium and magnesium supplements and never fix stiffness or cramps if you are too salt restricted.
Just like it’s ok to eat butter now you mark my words. Salt will gradually be reintroduced into the mainstream diet unless you are in heart failure or have salt sensitive high blood pressure.
Next you can spend some time in the morning doing one of the forms of tissue mobilization I mentioned above.
The next question that came from this guy was why certain areas of his body were tighter and harder to mobilize every morning. A good look at this guy revealed some significant muscle asymmetries (unevenness). His lower and upper leg on the right was bigger than the left and his left ab insertions were more prominent.
When I had him lunge with his right foot forward, his right hip and pelvic crest on the right were about 4 inches higher than the left. When he went left foot forward his left foot barely touched the ground. As fate would have it he had in the past injured both his right hip and knee playing sports. The typical logic would be to say the injury should lead to a left sided dominance in order to protect the right injured side.
The truth is gravity was the culprit. For whatever reason this man decided to manage and control gravity with his right hip far more than his left. This is what his body decided was easier, probably for most of his life. How this stuff happens is immaterial really, the fix is the important thing,
To fix both of the above problems I recommend large doses of Omega 3 to reduce fascial stickiness and inflamed muscles. Then you just start learning to use your non dominant side more. Start with awareness of how much more you use one side in weight bearing. From there start doing exercises in front of a mirror and work for equality and straight lines in your pelvis, hips knees and lower legs.
It will take a while to fix this and at first it will seem very unnatural. But fighting gravity is one of the most important things you can do to reduce and reverse the aging process. Catch this stuff soon enough and you may just avoid joint replacements.
And don’t forget the fish oil. It’s absolutely essential while fixing the effects of gravity and stiffness!