What is the cause of morning stiffness?
"I'm just getting old," is what many people with morning stiffness say, but old age alone is not the only cause of morning stiffness, pain and rigidity.
However, from a physical therapy perspective the causes may be because during the night, we go to sleep, we spend the whole time almost immobilised, our body loses heat and our tissues condense.
These all lead to old patterns, scars or injuries tending to be more easily discernible. It is when we first wake that our body readily shares its true degree of fragmentation, revealing different degrees of discomfort and pains.
What happens to our spine when we sleep?
An interesting natural phenomenon occurs each night. When we sleep, our spine is no longer subjected to the pressures of gravity, and our body is able to replenish loss of fluids between our inter-vertebral discs (body’s shock absorber), which stretch and relax, in a passive process called imbibition.
The height of the spine increases when we add up the amount that each disc increases in size at night. This makes us about one to one and a half centimetres taller in the morning.
As the day progresses, the discs slowly lose some of their height due to compressive forces, and we are back to being shorter at the end of the day again.
Our Jing Essence - A Chinese Medicine View
Classic Chinese Medicine views morning stiffness as a sign that we may be using up our Jing (essence/body fluids) too fast.
Making an analogy, Jing would be similar to the hardware of a computer: the physical basis for a functioning system. Jing is very hard to restore, and we gradually use it up as we age. Its depletion is accelerated through physical micro and macro traumas, excessive stress and worry. It is also depleted, in men, via excessive sexual activity (that includes ejaculation), and in women via abnormally heavy menstruation.
Jing or essence is the most concentrated or densely vibrating energy of the body. The physical aspect out of which our life unfolds. It is seen as the basis of growth, development and reproduction, and is inherited from our parents.
Together along with Chi (氣) and Shen (神), Jing (精) forms what this ancient medicine called the Tree Treasures (三寶) or vital substances that sustain our life here on earth.
Our body and mind as a psycho-physical unit
It is important to understand that from the perspective of this ancient medicine the mind and body function as a psycho-physical unit.
The best analogy to describe the Three Treasures and how we can take care of them is that of a candle. The wax and the wick of the candle represent Jing. It is the main component of the foundation for the other treasures.
The quality of the wax and the reserve of the wax available for burning determine the life of the candle.
So Jing, or our deep energy reserves, determines our longevity. It takes a long time to exhaust Jing and the best thing is to prevent the speed in which it can be depleted.
The flame of the candle represents Chi. It can spark and smoke or burn brightly and evenly. Since Chi is our vital daily energy, it provides the light source; however, it eventually consumes the candle.
The light that radiates from the lit candle represents Shen, mind and soul. The purpose of the candle is to illuminate, and so is our Shen.
When Jing and Chi are in abundance, Shen radiates.
In other words, when Chi, the bio electricity that bathes and nourishes the physical body through the acupuncture channels, is used efficiently, our Jing lasts longer. Chi is easily exhausted through daily activity and when a person is healthy it is easily replenished with good sleep and nutrition.
The practice of Chi Gung movements also is a perfect way to maintain a good Chi flow.
Maintenance of your body
An ancient Chinese medical manuscript The Mawangdui Shiwen 刑德, Ten Questions, buried in a tomb, sealed in 168 BC was discovered in Changsha, Hunan, in 1973, shows us the importance of morning and daily maintenance:
"Chi that has been kept overnight is ageing. Fresh Chi creates a long life. The one who is good at putting the Chi in order, causes the Chi that has been kept overnight to disperse and fresh Chi to be collected in the morning. ̈
To expand these observations: the physiological condensation of the tissues and the expansion of the discs during the night, making our spine much stiffer in the morning and therefore, more vulnerable to damage, and the Chi that has being kept over night is ageing tell us that loosening up the body and freeing up the Chi flow while we are still lying down first thing in the morning is literally a smart move.
IGung bed exercises, relieving morning stiffness
IGung is a unique health cultivation method combining the most advanced physiotherapeutic clinical expertise with
ancient Chinese medicine and martial arts healing secrets. It is a road map for unwrapping our life force so you can have more energy in less time and for a long time.
With just five to ten minutes of regular practice doing Smart Move IGung™ Bed Exercises first thing in the morning you will wake up your body’s juice and mind filling yourself with life energy, balancing and releasing your body from stiffness.
The practice will transform discomfort and pain gradually into pleasure.
Nourishing life everyday
IGung helps us nourish life since it was developed from the same philosophy and therapeutic principles of Yang Shen (陽 身): the single most important holistic concept underlying all ancient Chinese medical theory, that is embracing the continuous process of fostering the “ Three Treasures” through self- cultivation practices aimed at personal health and longevity.
Moving fluidly through these exercises, you will be giving your body exactly what it needs at exactly the right time, the impetus being to lubricate, to integrate and to balance, by connecting the communication from the centre with the periphery and vice versa.
At the end of these five to ten minutes you should feel as if you have had a gentle internal massage, stimulated your cells, enlivened your blood flow and connected your soft tissue so that the whole of you steps out of bed and into the day.
"I was in a pretty bad shape, stressed, tight, exhausted and my blood pressure was 23 | 13. I was about to explode. I decided to look for help and in my first session with Aline my blood pressure went to 15 | 9. She taught me her laying down Chi Gung bed exercises which I have been doing every day and my life has changed immensely. Nowadays I am much more tranquil and relaxed, my legs feel elastic as never before, my cycling is much more powerful and the soreness after my workout has disappeared for good. It's fantastic!!! "
Ivan Oliveres, 44 years old (Carpenter)