Learn About Ailments | Muscle stiffness

Muscle stiffness

Muscle stiffness typically occurs after increased activity when muscle fibres are stretched beyond their usual limits and cause restricted movement. Muscle stiffness can be from under-oxygenation and build up of lactic acid in the muscle tissue leading to cramps. Muscle stiffness can also be an indicator of other problems such as flu, viral infection or an immune system deficiency. Elderly people can suffer acute and chronic muscle stiffness due to long periods of inactivity.
Muscle stiffness

In This Article
Causes of muscle stiffness Symptoms of muscle stiffness
Diagnosis of muscle stiffness Related Terms

Stiff muscles are typically caused by a sedentary lifestyle, poor circulation or over-activity. As the muscles receive less oxygen through circulation of the blood, there is a build up of lactic acid which can lead to cramps. Over-activity and stretching the muscle fibres beyond their limits can result in muscle stiffness usually a day after the activity has ceased. In some cases, viral infections such as influenza can cause muscle stiffness.

When muscle stiffness becomes acute or chronic, the condition is called fibromyalgia or fibrositis. Fibromyalgia can be over the whole body as the condition affects the muscles, tendons and ligaments.  

Muscle stiffness is also common in the elderly although the problem is not necessarily due to age. Usually, elderly people are less active and the muscles do not receive the required amount of stretching to keep them functioning correctly.

Muscle stiffness symptoms include:
  • Pain or discomfort around the muscle
  • Restricted movement
  • Inflammation
In cases of fibromyalgia, symptoms can also include:
  • Widespread pain
  • Stiffness (particularly in the morning)
  • Sensitivity
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeping difficulty
  • Headaches
  • IBS
  • Problems with memory and concentration

Most cases of muscle stiffness resolve themselves after a few days as the muscle returns to its usual functioning state. However, if your muscle stiffness is persistent or severe then you should visit your GP to rule out any serious underlying problems.

If the GP suspects fibromyalgia they will first attempt to rule out other conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis or multiple sclerosis using blood tests, X-rays or other diagnostic scans.

Fibromyalgia does not have a specific test to help diagnose the condition. To make a diagnosis, the GP will use certain criteria such as:
  • widespread pain for three months on both sides of the body and below the waist
  • pain in 11 of the 18 'tender points' (these include the back of the neck, above the shoulder blades, inside of the elbows)


Therapies to consider
Acupressure Alexander Technique Deep Tissue Massage
EFT Hawaiian Massage Holistic Massage
Massage Massage Swedish Personal Training
Reflexology Sports Massage Yoga

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