Morning Stiffness – what’s the story? 9 Mar 2020
Morning Stiffness – what’s the story?
Morning stiffness is a common complaint of people coming into the clinic. Not the morning glory type! But what exactly does this mean and when should you come in and see one of our physiotherapists about it. Joint stiffness is primarily related to joint and/or muscle and tendon stiffness although it can also be related to inflammation.
As your joints get older, the spongy cushion of cartilage begins to dry out and stiffen. The joint lining also produces less synovial fluid and this can lead to a feeling of stiffness in the joint. This can be due to age, but also due to excessive wear and tear at any age. This early arthritic change causes morning stiffness and is one of the most common complaints of this condition. It is often the length of time that determines if your joints are causing your morning stiffness. Stiffness from osteoarthritis which commonly affects the weight bearing joints, like the hips and knees, can often last at least 30 minutes. Stiffness that lasts longer than several hours may point to more of an inflammatory arthritis like rheumatoid arthritis. If this happens, consider speaking to your GP about getting some blood taken or a referral to a rheumatologist (Rheumatologists do not just do rheumatoid arthritis they cover a host of systemic conditions and their management). Your physiotherapist can help you with self-management and joint preservation.
In the morning the discs of the back have more fluid in them, What this does is increase the length of the spine, putting some of the back ligaments in a taut position. As you move, you generally feel stiffer. Again, this is often short lived. If you have a disc bulge this will be considerably worse and putting your shoes and socks on is often a painful nightmare! If you have these types of symptoms do not keep trying to touch your toes it will make it worse. Come in and see us and we will give you a plan of treatment.
Pain in your tendon in the morning, most commonly the Achilles tendon at the ankle, can often be tight and sore in the morning. This will often ‘warm up as you walk around’ in less than 30 minutes. In the day, you may get stiffness in the Achilles if you sit down for any length of time and stand up. Likewise, the Achilles is often stiff at the start of a run then loosens as you get going. These signs are often indicative of Achilles Tendinopathy and you should consult your physio to start treatment.
Sore muscles after physical activity are known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and happens at the start of a new exercise regime or with an increase in activity. It is when your muscle is asked to work harder than normal or in a different way. It results in microscopic damage to the muscle fibres but is not a build-up of lactic acid as is often thought. It can last anything from 2-5 days and will reduce as your body gets use to the new program. To relieve the immediate symptoms rest from exercise and come and see us for a massage to get back to training quicker.
Morning stiffness can be due to many causes. Our physiotherapists can help you with a diagnosis and treatment.