Joint stiffness is a feeling that is typically associated with arthritis. Individuals may feel like the motion of a joint is impaired. This is not because of weakness or reluctance to move. Instead, the discomfort is triggered by pain. In some cases, the range of motion is not limited but movement requires force. The condition is linked to inflammation and it may get worse after prolonged resting or immediately after awakening.
Some types of inflammatory arthritis cause morning stiffness and the problem eases a few hours after awakening. Conversely, a limited or difficult motion that escalates as the day progresses is generally not triggered by inflammation. Physicians often diagnose the problem based on the results of a physical examination or other symptoms.
It is common for multiples types of arthritis to affect different joints. This can be shown by the duration of the stiffness. Inflammation does not cause stiff joints for a period of 15 minutes or less. With inflammatory variants like systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis, the stiffness may last for more than one hour.
Medical practitioners examine patients to ensure that the issue is caused by pain with motion or weakness. They evaluate the muscles and joints to eliminate the possibility of muscle rigidity (Parkinson’s disease) or muscle spasticity (spinal cord disorders and strokes).
Blood tests and ultrasonography or X-rays are conducted to detect different types of arthritis. On the other hand, stiffness is eased by targeting the disorder triggering it. Sufferers may resort to physical therapy, stretching, and taking a hot shower to improve mobility.
Causes of Joint Stiffness
Stiffness is typically caused by inflammation that occurs in the synovium (joint lining) while pain is linked to various kinds of injuries or conditions. The problem can result in considerable discomfort. Rheumatoid arthritis patients often experience a lot of pain and stiffness. The condition is classified as an autoimmune disorder.
Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is associated with the deterioration of joint cartilage and the growth of bone spurs. The condition typically affects adults older than 45 and can trigger pain in the joints.
Stiff joints may be induced by a condition known as bursitis. Bursae are characterized by fluid-filled sacs that provide cushion on the joints, thus promoting ease of movement of tendons and muscles.
Additional conditions that are known to cause stiff joints to include:
- Joint trauma
- Bone diseases
- Joint overuse
- Chondromalacia patellae
- Infectious diseases like measles (rubeola), parvovirus, Epstein-Barr viral syndrome, and more.
- Gout (particularly the kind that occurs in the big toe)
Sufferers can treat stiffness or alleviate pain using exercise, pain medications, hot and cold compresses, ginger, supplements like Instaflex, and more. When the joint problem is linked to inflammatory conditions like arthritis, patients can dramatically improve the condition by changing their diet. The objective can be achieved by eliminating processed foods and animal proteins. This means no sugar as well as red and white meats.
Instead, patients should consume milk, vegetables like spinach, yogurt (with cultures), fish, omega-3 supplements, and more. This provides a sure-fire way to reduce inflammation making it easier to combat pain and stiffness.
Once the diet has been changed, individuals can treat occasional flareups with pain medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), narcotic pain medications, and steroids. The NSAIDs include ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin. They have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic effects. Paracetamol is not as effective at combating inflammation and it’s not an NSAID.
Heat and cold compresses are effective at controlling pain and stiffness. Cold reduces swelling and helps relax the nerves while heat is used to enhance blood circulation.