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Why Are My Joints Stiff?

joint pain in hands

Stiffness can affect any joint in your body, including your fingers, hands, wrists, knees, and elbows. You may find it more difficult than usual to walk, stand, type, or perform other daily tasks and should seek treatment if your symptoms are ongoing.

What is Joint Stiffness?

Joint stiffness can occur when it is difficult to move a joint or its range of motion is limited or difficult. It can sometimes occur just after waking up or sitting. In other cases, it can be more severe and be accompanied by pain and inflammation. You may have difficulty walking, standing, or putting weight on your joints.

Why Does Joint Stiffness Occur?

Joint stiffness can occur because of several reasons, including the following:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis- This chronic inflammatory disorder causes your immune system to attack the lining of your joints. It often affects the wrists and the small joints of the hands and feet.
  • Osteoarthritis- This type of arthritis occurs when cartilage, which cushions your joints, breaks down with age. It often affects the knees, hips, neck, lower back, and fingers.
  • Gout- A type of arthritis, gout can come on suddenly and affect any joint. The big toe is often the first to experience symptoms.
  • Lupus- This chronic autoimmune disease often affects the knees, wrists, and finger joints. Symptoms can come and go abruptly and range from mild to severe.
  • Bursitis- Bursitis occurs when bursae, which are tiny fluid-filled sacs that provide cushioning become inflamed. It is most common in the elbow, shoulder, and hip, although it can affect any joint.
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)- This inflammatory joint disease almost always only affects people over age 50, causing stiffness and pain in the shoulders, neck, hips, wrists, and fingers.
  • Fibromyalgia- This chronic pain condition affects muscles, and patients often report joint stiffness as well.
  • Hypothyroidism- An underactive thyroid gland can cause many symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain, and joint stiffness.
  • Bone cancer- This is rarely a cause of joint stiffness, but when it occurs it most commonly affects the long bones of the arms and legs.

How is Joint Stiffness Treated?

Stiff joints are usually treated by addressing its underlying cause and taking measure to provide relief. They can include one or more of the following:

  • Heat or cold- A cold compress used 15 to 20 minutes at a time several times a day can reduce swelling and pain. A heating pad or hot bath or shower can also provide relief.
  • Over-the-counter medications- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen may provide relief, especially if your stiffness is caused by arthritis.
  • Steroids- Corticosteroid injections can reduce inflammation, which causes stiffness and pain to decrease. Shots may become less effective over time, however.
  • Physical therapy- Directed exercises can increase mobility and help relieve stiffness.
  • Losing extra weight- If you need to lose some extra weight, doing so may help reduce some of your symptoms.

If you’re suffering from joint stiffness, make an appointment today with NY Orthopedics in many convenient locations in New York. Our “Centers of Excellence” offer top-level treatment to help you regain your mobility and provide relief for your joints.

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