Muscle stiffness is common. It is when the muscles feel tight and difficult to move, and can be accompanied by pain, cramping, and discomfort.
It’s usually not a cause for concern and can be treated with home remedies and stretching. A variety of things can cause muscle stiffness, including:
A common cause of muscle stiffness is exercise, or hard physical work.
Often, stiffness can occur when someone starts a new exercise routine or programme, or has increased the intensity and duration of their routine. When this happens, the muscles are required to work harder. This causes microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, resulting in stiffness or soreness. Muscle stiffness is commonly caused by jogging or running, using weights and doing squats or push-ups.
Sprains and strains
The most common cause of muscle stiffness is a sprain, or strain. A strain is when the muscle fibres are stretched or torn, commonly in the legs and lower back. A sprain is when the ligaments have been stretched, twisted, or torn. The ligaments are the bands of tissue around the joints that connect the bones together and common areas prone to sprains include knees, ankles, wrists.
Symptoms associated with sprains and strains include pain, swelling, bruising and tenderness.
Other things that may lead to occasional muscle stiffness include a lack of daily physical activity, being overweight, having a poor diet, or not sleeping properly.
When it’s time to see a doctor
Most cases of muscle stiffness will go away on their own or with the aid of home remedies, but prolonged or frequent stiffness can sometimes be a sign of an underlying condition.
If anyone experiences muscle stiffness along with additional symptoms, such as fever, pain, or swelling, they should speak to a doctor. It is important to tell the doctor about all the symptoms they have, not just muscle stiffness, in order to get an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment and home remedies
Over-the-counter painkillers usually work for pain relief, although stronger medications may be prescribed if necessary. For most cases of muscle stiffness, there are some simple home remedies for relief. These include:
- resting until the body repairs;
- using heat or ice packs, or alternating between each;
- stretching to improve flexibility and circulation;
- taking a warm bath or shower to promote blood circulation;
- massaging the affected areas.
There are also some simple changes people can make to their lifestyle to prevent getting muscle stiffness. These include:
- exercising regularly;
- warming up and down before and after exercise;
- stretching the muscle;
- wearing the correct footwear during exercise;
- wearing warm clothing in cold weather;
- practicing good posture avoiding long periods of inactivity.
Staying hydrated and eating a varied, nutritious diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, and can also help reduce the chance of muscle stiffness.
To stay hydrated, a person should drink plain water every day, or try herbal teas.