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Joseph Ciccolo, PhD

Joseph T. Ciccolo, Ph.D., is a Program Director in the Tobacco Control Research Branch (TCRB) within the Behavioral Research Program (BRP) of the Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) at the National Cancer Institute (NCI). His primary research interests are broadly focused on the efficacy of novel clinical treatments for addiction and mental illness. His specific area of interest has been cigarette smoking cessation in high-risk and hard-to-reach populations. He is particularly interested in mechanisms of change and behavioral strategies that can be used to help smokers quit.

Prior to joining NCI, Dr. Ciccolo was the Principal Investigator of multiple NIH-funded clinical trials, and an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biobehavioral Sciences at Teachers College, Columbia University. He also was a regular grant reviewer for the Center for Scientific Review and has served as a Senior Associate Editor and an editorial board member for several scientific journals. To date, Dr. Ciccolo has authored over 70 original scientific papers, reviews, and other publications. After receiving his Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin, he completed an NIH-funded T32 postdoctoral fellowship at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

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Woman waking up in the morning suffering backache

Avoiding Muscle Stiffness

Ask the Expert


I'm 56 and beginning to feel old. When I get up in the morning, my lower back is stiff, making it hard to put on socks. My back loosens up in the next hour or so of movement. Is there an exercise that would help me avoid that early morning discomfort?


As we age, muscle strength, elasticity and flexibility all begin to decrease and our bodies need more time to adjust when wakening. The muscles in your lower back are most likely stiff from not moving, so—before jumping out of bed—take a few moments for this series of stretches:

  • First, do a full body, natural stretch while still in bed.
  • Then, lie flat on your back, arms raised straight up over your head. Point your toes and do a full body stretch. Hold for 10 seconds, relax and breathe out.
  • Bring your knees up to your chest, squeeze, and hold for 10 seconds. Relax and breathe out.
  • Turn over onto your hands and knees. Flatten your back, then arch it (like a cat). Hold for 10 seconds, relax and breathe out.
  • Lie face down, arms by your side. Raise your head up and lift your torso, squeezing your lower back muscles. Hold for 10 seconds. Relax and breathe out.
  • On your stomach, head down, raise and extend one arm while also raising the opposite side leg. You should feel a diagonal stretch across your entire back. Hold for 10 seconds, relax and breathe out. Switch and repeat with the other arm and leg.

In addition, you should target your lower back and abdominal muscles as part of a regular strength and flexibility program. Strengthening the core midsection of your body will help reduce some of your morning stiffness.

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