Wrapped up in a Barbie blanket, I woke up with excruciating hip pain. At age 8, I was in the midst of the most severe flare of my life. While the entire two-week period was bad, mornings were torture. But while it was unfortunate, it wasn’t unusual; many kids with juvenile arthritis wake up with extra stiffness and pain.
Mornings are hard for everyone, but they’re especially hard for children with arthritis. After several hours of inactivity, their joints often become stiff and painful. Or, they might not have had a restful sleep at all. It’s common for people with arthritis to wake up during the night to adjust and stretch. Mix that with chronic fatigue, and it’s not hard to see why your child might not want to leave their bed.
I find that the best way to battle early morning stiffness is to start early. Often, that means beginning treatments before waking up. If at all possible, try to have your child wake up to take their medicine a half hour before they need to be up. It can also be helpful to place a heated blanket or hot water bottle on your child’s troublesome joints 15 minutes before waking up.
You may also consider having your child wake up a half hour early. Since I was small, I’ve always gotten up a half hour earlier than I need to. My earlier wake-up time let me take my time hobbling from my bed to the couch and allowed my medicine time to work. While it could be a struggle to get me out of bed at times, the thought of watching a half hour of cartoons before school usually enticed me.
Working around stiffness
It’s difficult to get ready for school with sore joints. For that reason, I know a lot of people who use adaptive devices in the morning. Tools such as buttoners can be helpful, and so can large grips on silverware and zippers. On particularly painful mornings, I always choose clothes without laces or buttons — bring on the Uggs, leggings, and oversized T-shirts!
You may need to get creative in dealing with morning stiffness. I know two young teens who push themselves around in the morning using a rolling chair! What a fun alternative to limping on painful feet! I also know a young girl who looks forward to a warm bubble bath every day.
Lend a hand
Your child may need your help getting ready in the morning. A kid with swollen, painful fingers may need you to comb their hair, brush their teeth, and help with dressing. Some may need help walking, climbing down stairs, and even carrying backpacks.
It’s heartbreaking to have to help your child in those ways. They may feel embarrassed or discouraged that they need your help. Remind yourself and them that things will get better. Try to recall and emphasize the things they can do when they’re feeling better. The best thing you can do is stay positive and build them up. Mornings are hard, but with some extra preparations and positivity, they can be manageable.
Note: Juvenile Arthritis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Juvenile Arthritis News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to juvenile arthritis.