A stiff joint, or stiffness in multiple joints, can seriously put a damper on the amount of fun you can have. No more tearing up the dance floor or contact sports and you can kiss goodbye that dream of yours to bike across the country. Walking up the stairs can even be a challenge, or, if you’re really bad off, just getting up and walking at all. Stiffness can be caused by several ailments, but one of the more frequent offenders is old age (not old age per se, but some of the stuff that can come along with it, like arthritis). Other possibilities are lupus, tendinitis or bursitis, hepatitis, measles, injuries, and rheumatic fever, to name a few. Your doctor will be able to give you the best advice for your specific condition, but there are also a few things you can try out on your own to ease your stiff body and get your groove back.
When to Seek Medical Attention
- Pain and stiffness lasting more than a few days
- Severe pain from an unknown cause
- Fever without the flu
- Substantial unintended weight loss (hey we love to see the pounds melt off, but when they literally do…)
Best Treatments for Stiffness
Pamper yourself with a warm bath and massage. Options include a visit to the spa or blackmailing/coercing your spouse into such pampering. Seriously though, soaking in a warm bath and massaging your aching parts will relax your muscles and ease the pain in your joints. Indulge yourself as frequently as you’d like. These, however, are not long-term cures. But they will help make your stiffness much more manageable.
Stretching will increase flexibility and make it easier to move. This approach is more for long-term illnesses causing stiffness and it will gradually loosen you up. You don’t have to be able to touch your toes or do the splits, just stretch out a little bit every day concentrating on your problem area. Start with slow, easy stretches and work your way up to avoid injury. Yoga is a wonderful low-resistance option that helps to gain flexibility, strength, and calm your mind.
Exercise will improve strength and stamina. It’s also better for movement and your health. Go another step beyond stretching and get your heart going, too. It may seem like an impossible task, but remember it doesn’t matter how old you are or what shape you’re in, you can always get started as slow and easy as you need to. There are tons of benefits to exercising and every little bit helps. Consult your doctor and work out a regimen that’s hard enough to strengthen you, but easy enough for low risk of injury. He or she might recommend physical therapy sessions.
Treating the underlying cause of your stiffness is most beneficial. Treating only the symptom feels better now but is just a quick fix. Getting the actual problem under control is a much better plan in the long run. This will probably require a visit to a doctor. The sooner you go, the less damage your body will sustain from an untreated condition. Your doctor will probably ask for x-rays and blood tests to determine the source of the problem. Definitely make an appointment if you have any of the symptoms listed in the sidebar.
There are both prescription and over-the-counter medications to ease stiffness. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication (like Aleve, which Amazon sells) can be taken to manage pain and swelling, which in turn will make it easier to get around. Discuss with your doctor more permanent medication solutions. He or she can also prescribe other stronger medication for this purpose (tailored to your specific condition) or corticosteroid injections. Below, you will find a few natural supplements to consider that aid joint and muscle health. Some causes of stiffness can’t be cured, so symptom management is your best plan.
When to Seek Help
Stiffness is a symptom of some diseases that you really don’t want to ignore. Hepatitis can cause serious liver damage. Lupus can mess with several body systems. Rheumatic fever can damage your heart and requires antibiotics; same with osteomyelitis and septic arthritis. So please don’t dismiss your symptoms—take care of yourself. Stiffness due to flu, measles, and chicken pox will get better in time and may not require a doctor’s help. Other causes of your unyielding body parts (such as rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis) are unavoidable and/or incurable. “Bah! So what’s the point of even trying?” you say. Don’t give up hope. Keeping in contact with your primary physician and monitoring symptoms will minimize deterioration of your condition. Keeping things under control will also make life much more livable. Maybe you’ll even be able to pull your bike out of storage!
Fish oil. Really anything with omega-3 fatty acids will do. This is a natural anti-inflammatory, and a really good fish oil pill won’t give you intense fish burps. Mmmm. Fish oil burps.
Glucosamine and chondroitin. This supplement helps to lubricate your joints for easier, less painful movement. You can order it from any drug store, or get glucosamine capsules from Amazon.
Green tea extract. Another anti-inflammatory. It’s not as strong as Advil, but it’s a natural alternative.