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Joint stiffness

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Joint stiffness means impeded mobility of the joints present in your body. The stiffness can be felt in one or more joints of your jaws, fingers, knuckles, wrist, elbows, feet and ankles, which further affects your mobility.


Symptoms of joint stiffness

  • Doctors say that joint stiffness is hallmark of arthritis and it specifically happens in the morning, lasting for an hour or more
  • There could be pain, inflammation, soreness, redness and warmth surrounding the affected joint.
  • Activity with that specific part of your body and movement of the joint will be limited. Your whole body would pain and become stiff if it’s fibromyalgia
  • In case of trauma and injury, you would experience great deal of pain or may be numbness along with stiffness in your joints


Causes of joint stiffness

Your doctor would suspect the following reasons behind stiffness in your joints 

  • Autoimmune conditions and infection in synovial fluid – rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis, lupus, septic arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia pain
  • Elevated uric acid, gout
  • Bone infection, bone diseases or bone disorders – e.g. osteoarthritis, osteomyelitis
  • Accidental injury or trauma to joint, overuse of joint, tendonitis
  • Rheumatic fever, viral fever (influenza), hepatitis, mumps

Diagnosis of joint stiffness

Your doctor will physically examine the symptom and look for characteristics signs of a systemic disease. You need to explain your doctor the kind of stiffness you are experiencing, since when and at what time does it occur or if you had an injury or have a pre-existing medical condition.

Following this initial diagnosis, you have to undergo X ray and ultrasonography or MRI of the joints. Other diagnostic tests like CBC test, C-reactive protein, uric acid test, erythrocyte sedimentation rate and specific blood tests for autoimmune diseases will be ordered.


Treatment of joint stiffness

The treatment is certainly dependent upon the diagnostic test reports. The stiffness is considerably managed with treatment of the underlying health issue. 

  • Anti-rheumatic drugs are used to control rheumatic arthritis. The treatment would further control damage of joints in the future
  • Glucocorticoids, NSAIDs, analgesics, etc. may be used for controlling pain and stiffness arising from viral fever, joint injury etc.
  • Medicines would be prescribed for gout and to control uric acid levels

Above all, your doctor would refer you to a physiotherapist who would teach you a range of motion exercises to improve flexibility and movement of your joints. This is the most important part of the treatment which has promising benefits on your joints, bones and muscles.


Self care for joint stiffness

  • Rest is definitely needed if you had a fracture or sprain. You can wear a sling for support or keep your ankle/feet/arm elevated
  • Take heat compress on the affected part. Soak you stiffened joints in warm water or use a hot water bag everyday for 30 minutes
  • Perform some stretching exercises for your joints on bed itself, before getting up
  • Make sure you are regularly performing the exercises shown by your physiotherapist
  • You can visit a chiropractor/acupuncture therapist to relieve the stiffness from your joints

Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: July 03, 2014

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