Ever Wonder Why You Get Stiff After Sitting in the Car?

You’re on a long car ride and now it’s time to take a break and “stretch your legs”. You were comfortable in the car, but when you stand up and take those first few steps...ouch and ooof! Is this normal? Does that mean you have something wrong with your joints? Are you getting old? Actually, the answer to each of these questions might be “yes” depending on your circumstances and the amount of stiffness you experience.

Sitting too long can make almost anyone stiff, except perhaps children who seem to have boundless energy in addition to flexible joints. For adults, there is growing evidence that prolonged sitting is unhealthy. New guidelines for workplace sitting show that standing as often as every half-hour has health benefits for bones, joints, blood vessels, weight management, and even some cancers. While every half-hour is too frequent for most car travelers, it calls attention to the need for more frequent stops instead of driving from one tank full to the next without stopping for several hours.

During sitting, fluid accumulates in the muscles and especially in the lower legs. This may slow blood circulation and promote muscle stiffness. Too much salt should be avoided because it increases fluid accumulation, but plenty of plain water is recommended to keep tissues hydrated in a healthy manner.

Periodic joint movement helps lubricate and nourish the joint surfaces. Joint fluid is a very special fluid that is slightly oily and contains nourishment for the cartilage surfaces of the joint. There aren’t any blood vessels in the cartilage joint surface, so nutrients are pumped into the cartilage when the joints move. This is similar to your eye that is kept healthy by blinking. When joints don’t move the surfaces become pressed together and the fluid layer becomes thin. Also the joint surfaces are slightly spongy and change shape when they are pressed together. In mechanical engineering terms, this is called “creep” or “cold flow” when solid materials slowly deform because of steady pressure. Restoring motion is more difficult after sitting because the fluid lubricant is thinner between the surfaces, and the surfaces themselves change shape slightly. For this reason, it’s normal to feel a little creaky when you move your joints after resting in one position for a long time. This means that even healthy people should stop at least every 90 minutes and take a short walk.

Stiffness lasting longer than thirty minutes, especially in the morning may be an early warning sign of joint deterioration. Stiffness lasting longer than an hour is almost always a sign of joint inflammation. Long car rides can aggravate stiffness in people with early joint problems. Your joints should “loosen up” in less than five minutes if you’ve been in a car for two hours or less. When you stop, try taking a short walk instead of just pumping gas or going to the bathroom. A little time bending and stretching your back, shoulders, hips, and knees will also help.

Some foods can increase inflammatory proteins in our blood. These foods are mostly found in diets high in fats, sugars and red meat. So, you might want to cut back on fast foods loaded with these ingredients during long car trips. In contrast, there are some foods that can lower inflammatory proteins in our blood. These include salmon and other oily fish, nuts, and avocados. Fish oil supplements have similar effects.

There are also some other supplements that have shown positive benefits for increased joint mobility and joint health. One ingredient in IBBH® Joint Formula is called UC-II®, and this deserves special attention because it has been shown to help joints in a variety of conditions. Just 40 mg of UC-II® once a day has been shown to support joint comfort, flexibility and mobility. UC-II® is more effective than glucosamine/chondroitin and also helps joint function in healthy people who engage in strenuous exercise. This is a remarkable ingredient because it is an extract of chicken cartilage that is prepared without destroying the biological properties during the preparation process.

In summary, short periods of joint stiffness may be normal after riding in the car for a long time, but stiffness may be your body’s way of telling you that you should stop more often. Your joints will be healthier if you do, and you’ll probably be more mentally alert with more frequent stops. If your joints are excessively stiff, then try drinking plenty of water and decreasing consumption of foods high in fat, sugar, salt and red meat before you travel. For those with prolonged stiffness, a nutritional supplement may help you too.

2 thoughts on “Ever Wonder Why You Get Stiff After Sitting in the Car?”

Leave a Reply