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Stiff Joints

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Learn what causes stiff joints and how to treat them.

Joint stiffness is a common characteristic of arthritis.

It is defined as discomfort after a period of inactivity, a decreased range-of-motion, or a loss of range of motion in a joint. With osteoarthritis, joint stiffness after waking may last up to 30 minutes.

With inflammatory types of arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis or systemic lupus erythematosus, the stiffness typically lasts more than 45 minutes. Joint pain may also be caused by bursitis.

The bursae are fluid-filled sacs that cushion and pad bony prominences, allowing muscles and tendons to move freely over the bone.


Causes of Joint Stiffness

Joint stiffness is caused by inflammation in the synovium, the lining of the joint, and joint pain can be caused by many types of injuries or conditions.

No matter what causes it, joint pain and stiffness can be very bothersome.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that causes stiffness and pain in the joints. Osteoarthritis involves the growth of bone spurs and degeneration of cartilage at a joint. It is very common in adults older than 45 and can cause joint pain.

Other medical conditions can also cause joint stiffness, including bone diseases, cancer, joint trauma, or overuse of the joint.

A list of common causes of Joint Pain/Stiffness

  • Autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
  • Bursitis
  • Chondromalacia Patellae
  • Gout (especially found in the big toe)
  • Infectious diseases
    • Epstein-Barr viral syndrome
    • Hepatitis
    • Influenza
    • Lyme disease
    • Measles (rubeola)
    • Mumps
    • Parvovirus
    • Rheumatic fever
    • Rubella (German measles)
    • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Injury
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tendonitis
  • Unusual exertion or overuse, including strains or sprains


Treating Joint Stiffness

There are many options for treating joint pain: hot and cold compresses, pain medication, exercise, and supplements are just a few.

  • Cold and heat treatment is highly beneficial in lessening joint stiffness and pain. Cold reduces the swelling and relaxes the excited nerves whereas heat enhances the blood circulation. To relieve yourself from joint stiffness you should use hot packs every morning. For best results try to alternate cold and heat after every 5 minutes.

  • Pain medicine for arthritis generally falls into three categories: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS, often sold over the counter), narcotic pain medications, and steroids.
    • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - NSAIDs are drugs with analgesic, antipyretic and, in higher doses, anti-inflammatory effects - they reduce pain, fever, and inflammation.

      The most prominent members of this group of drugs are aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen partly because they are available over-the-counter in many areas. Paracetamol (acetaminophen) has negligible anti-inflammatory activity and is not an NSAID.

    • Narcotic Pain Medications - There are a variety of strong pain relievers, containing narcotic drugs, that your doctor may prescribe to help relieve your arthritis pain.Including Tylenol with Codeine, Morphine, and OxyContin.

      Unlike ibuprofen, Motrin, Aleve, or other NSAID drugs, narcotic pain relievers do not decrease the inflammation that occurs with arthritis.

      Narcotic drugs work on pain receptors on nerve cells to relieve pain.

    • Steroids - Corticosteroid medications are chemically similar to natural steroids and duplicate their actions.

      When prescribed in doses that exceed your body's usual levels, corticosteroids suppress inflammation, which can reduce the signs and symptoms of inflammatory conditions such as arthritis and asthma.

      Dozens of corticosteroid medications are available today. The drugs are front-line treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, asthma, allergies, and many other conditions.

  • Exercise - Exercise can help you improve your health and fitness without hurting your joints. Though you might think exercise will aggravate your joint pain and stiffness, that's not the case. Lack of exercise can make your joints even more painful and stiff. Along with your current treatment program, exercise can:
    • Strengthen the muscles around your joints
    • Help you maintain bone strength
    • Give you more strength and energy to get through the day
    • Make it easier to get a good night's sleep
    • Help you control your weight
    • Make you feel better about yourself and improve your sense of well-being

  • Many people are now turning to alternative medicine for arthritis in the hopes of getting lasting relief from their symptoms without the risks associated with pharmaceutical arthritis pain relief medication.

    Alternative medicine for arthritis can also take the form of using supplements to help rebuild and strengthen the stiff or broken down cartilage that results from the disease.

    Supplements such as MSM, glucosamine, and chondroitin are well known for their ability to help the body strengthen and repair joint cartilage, and using the three combined will help your body replace, rebuild and repair the damage already caused to get you back on your feet.
Next Article: How to Stop Arthritis