by Eveline Erni

Okay, I shouldn’t say this, but if you’re under the age of 25, you probably don’t need to read this article. Somewhere between 25 and 35 years of age, the warranty is up, and reality steps in for a quick wake-up call (no pun intended). For the rest of us,  however….

Why do we feel stiff in the morning? The reasons are somewhat similar to why the Tinman stiffened up in The Wizard of Oz. He stopped moving. While you may not have gotten caught in the rain and rusted, you did stop moving for a considerable period of time. During those hours of sleep, the body’s core temperature has fallen and viscosity of the joints has decreased. In the Tinman’s case, after few squirts of oil he was back in business. People are a little more complicated. Try this three-step process (come on, it will only take a minute, and you’ll get the day off to a good start):

Lying in Bed: While still lying in bed, turn onto your side or back and bend your legs. Gently rock your pelvis up and down. As you do this motion, you should feel your lower back change from arching to flattening. Start with a small motion and gradually increase the range. After you do this for a minute or so, roll on to your back. Once on your back, alternately pull one knee to the chest while straightening the other leg. Remember, move gently, you are just waking up.

Sitting up in Bed: Now it’s time to rise and shine, but we want to minimize the strain on the body. This means we do not sit straight up in bed. (Remember Linda Blair’s foul mood in The Exorcist?) Instead, roll to your side, bend your legs and use your hands to push up from the bed while lowering your legs down over the side. This saves your back, because you avoid twisting and bending your spine. Twisting and bending can have painful consequences.

Getting on to Feet: Finally, to get from sitting to standing, try this method. Scoot to the edge of your bed; push your feet into the floor. As you lift your bottom off the surface, make sure to keep your head up. By using this method you avoid the potentially painful forward bending of the spine and the reversal into extension (very important in preventing muscular back spasm).

Hot Shower: To finish things off, get a nice hot shower, which should complete a very positive beginning to your day.

Eveline Erni is a physical therapist with 27 years of experience, who has run a private practice in New York City since 1990. Along with four colleagues, Erni has helped more than 2,000 patients. Erni is also a member of the Hospital for Special Surgery’s Rehabilitation Network, one of New York’s premiere surgical orthopedic hospitals.

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