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Joint stiffness making daily activities difficult

By Devin Wurman, DPT

We’ve had many patients coming in and complaining about their joints being stiff and sore. That’s folks being treated for arthritis and patients coming here for something else. Temperature and humidity changes can certainly cause joint pain, a prime symptom of arthritis.

So what exactly is arthritis?

What happens with arthritis is that the joint begins to wear down. In normal joints, there is a material that covers the bone called cartilage. This material is very important as it allows for our bones to glide and move smoothly. With arthritis, this material begins to break down, which causes inflammation, pain and swelling in the joint. As the problem worsens, the bone begins to produce extra pieces of bone called spurs, which will invade the space of the joint. Overtime, the bones come closer together and will rub leading to further damage and more pain.  Generally, people over the age of 65 will be most likely diagnosed with arthritis; however younger people are also susceptible to this condition, especially after experiencing a trauma of some kind.

Do you have arthritis?  Here are some common signs and symptoms you may experience if you do:

  • Limited mobility and stiffness that is worse in the morning and improves with movement
  • Swelling around the joint that can extend above and below as well
  • “Snap, crackle, and pop” noises in the joint heard and felt with movement
  • Increased pain with prolonged activity or towards the end of the day

These symptoms can start out slightly annoying, but as it progresses, it can impact many of your daily activities such as: getting dressed, walking, using stairs, opening a jar, getting up from a chair, and holding objects.

One of the best ways to handle arthritis is to get up and MOVE! This may seem hard to understand at first because of the pain, but joints that have arthritis would prefer movement versus not moving at all. Maintaining some sort of activity lubricates the joints, which allows them to have better mobility. Exercises which involve range of motion, strengthening, and aerobics help maintain flexibility, reduce stiffness, and build muscle around the joint, which provides support. This support helps take the brunt of the movement/force through a joint, which reduces pain. Aerobic activity is crucial to improve endurance and manage weight. The more weight placed on a joint, the more stress, and therefore more pain. All of the above measures will help slow down the progression and maintain function.

If you start noticing that your joints are getting stiff and sore, do not wait!  Seek the advice of a physical therapist. We can evaluate the problem and prescribe exercises that will enable you to continue to perform your daily and recreational activities with less or no pain. Call our office today at 703-450-4300. CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you. 

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