Stiff Joints?

Stiff Joints?

Author -  Good Health

Why joints might be stiffer in the morning

Morning stiffness does not occur with age alone, it is one of the most common symptoms of both rheumatoid-and-osteoarthritis. In an arthritic joint, there is less cartilage and less synovial fluid which means less lubrication for the joint. After a night of resting, the joints become stiff, and as muscles and tendons tighten, there is pain upon movement. Stiffness will go away through gentle motion as muscles and joints warm up, however morning stiffness will commonly last longer if suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.

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It is not so simple as aging

A healthy joint is lined by cartilage and a synovium membrane, which produces the lubricating synovial fluid. Muscles, tendons and ligaments surrounding the joint provide support and allow for smooth muscle movement without pain. However as we age, the manufacture of synovial fluid is less than the amount naturally broken down. This results in a thinning of the fluid, which contributes to the wearing of cartilage and the pain felt in osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis causes the normally thin synovium to become inflamed, which results in an accumulation of thick synovial fluid, pain and inflammation.

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Arthritis: the most common forms

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, develops due to the wear-and-tear process. Commonly seen after 40 years of age, osteoarthritis effects approximately 50% of over 60 year olds in at least one joint. Osteoarthritis commonly occurs in the hands, and weight bearing joints such as the hips and knees; the onset is joint stiffness, with tenderness, joint cracking and chronic pain developing.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that can develop at any age; however it is much less common than osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is a consequence of the body’s immune system that leads to an abnormal attack on the joint tissue. This leads to bilateral cartilage erosion, where the same joints on both side of the body are affected. Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation, swelling and stiff joints, however it can also develop to affect energy levels and cause problems in other parts of the body including the heart, lungs and skin.

What about Fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia is a complex syndrome based around a cluster of unexplainable symptoms. It is more prevalent in women, and often occurs between the age of 20-50 years. Similar to rheumatoid arthritis, there may be symptoms of morning stiffness, joint pain, increased fatigue, and mood changes; as well as muscle pain, headaches, impaired cognition and irritable bowel syndrome.

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What can be done?

  1. Exercise is important for both the symptoms and to prevent the development of arthritis. Increased physical activity can help to manage weight and enhance muscular strength, which will reduce the pressure placed on the joint.
  2. Omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines (and in fish oil supplements) help to reduce inflammation and joint swelling. 
  3. Turmeric is a potent anti-oxidant which may help to prevent symptoms of arthritis; as well as a natural anti-inflammatory which can help to reduce the pain, inflammation and stiffness associated with arthritis.
  4. Magnesium maintains nerve and muscle function, relaxing the muscle and reducing pain. As a cream it can be applied directly and quickly absorbed.
  5. Vitamin D deficiency is common to those suffering from arthritic conditions, as low Vitamin D reduces the body’s ability to absorb calcium, affecting the muscles and the joints. Ensure you are making the most of the longer daylight hours and soak up Vitamin D from the best source available, the sun.

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Having arthritis can be challenging, but it doesn’t have to mean that you sacrifice the things you love. There are many ways you can support your body through diet and lifestyle changes, for freedom of movement without the pain or stiffness.

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