Arthritis is the swelling and tenderness of the joints. It is a term used to describe over 200 types of joint conditions. Two of the main symptoms that are associated with arthritis are pain and stiffness.
Arthritis pain can be debilitating. In fact, the CDC reports that over one-third of adults who suffer from arthritis are limited in their activities and work.
A few of the most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. All three of these conditions cause different kinds of pain.
Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage inside the joints to disintegrate. Cartilage acts as a cushion for your bones, so when this break down occurs, the bones of your joints may rub directly against one another. This causes severe pain. However, the pain caused by osteoarthritis varies from patient to patient, depending on location and severity.
Fibromyalgia is a central pain syndrome. Central pain syndrome means your body and brain are affected by pain differently from others. A normal movement for others may cause you severe pain, or something that is painful for others may be excruciating for you. This pain can be widespread – meaning your whole body is affected. But fibromyalgia pain can come and go or be constant. It all depends on the patient.
Stiffness Caused by Arthritis
Joint stiffness is common in patients suffering from arthritis. This is because the stiffness is caused by inflammation. The inflamed area of a joint is typically worsened after periods of inactivity – especially prolonged sitting or standing. Stiffness is particularly common in the morning after a good night’s rest. However, the type of stiffness can be determined by the type of arthritis the patient has.
Rheumatic arthritis causes stiffness after a period of rest. This can occur after sitting for a long period of time, such as at a desk job or sitting in a movie theater. Standing up and walking slowly helps diffuse the stiffness.
Inflammatory arthritis causes a different kind of stiffness. This is temporary stiffness that lasts for a short amount of time. This is most common in arthritis patients in the morning, with the stiffness wearing off after approximately 30 minutes.
The length of time you feel joint pain and stiffness can help your physician determine the type of arthritis you have. Medication is not usually recommended, but the pain and stiffness can be reduced through the use of alternating hot and cold compresses, physical therapy, and exercise to increase your range of motion.