Muscle stiffness is when the muscles feel tight and difficult to move, particularly after resting. Muscles stiffness can also be accompanied by pain, cramping, and discomfort. It is usually not a cause for concern and can be treated with home remedies and stretching. In this article, we look at some causes of muscle stiffness, as well as home remedies and when to see a doctor.
A common cause of muscle stiffness is exercise or hard physical labor of some kind. Often, stiffness can occur when someone starts a new exercise routine or program or has increased the intensity and duration of their routine. When this happens, the muscles are required to work harder, and this causes microscopic damage to the muscle fibers, resulting in stiffness or soreness. This type of injury is sometimes referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Any movement can cause DOMS, but it is commonly caused by: jogging or running downhill, using weights, doing squats and doing push-ups.
Sprains and strains
A sprain or strain can affect both muscles and ligaments. It is a strain when the muscle fibers are stretched or torn, particularly common in the legs and lower back. While a sprain is when the ligaments have been stretched, twisted, or torn. Ligaments are the bands of tissue around the joints that connect the bones together.
Common areas of sprains and strains include knees, ankles, wrists and thumbs. Other symptoms that may be associated with sprains and strains include, pain, swelling, bruising, tenderness, redness and Polymyalgia rheumatica. Polymyalgia rheumatica causes muscle pain and stiffness. It usually affects the upper body, including the shoulders, neck, and arms. It also commonly affects the hips.
Bites or stings
Insect bites or stings may cause muscle stiffness, especially if they become infected. Insect bites and stings can sometimes cause muscle stiffness. Bites or stings may also cause a red, swollen lump on the skin, which can be itchy and painful.
Bugs that commonly bite or sting and may cause muscle stiffness include wasps, hornets, bees, horseflies, ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, spiders and midges. Symptoms of a bite or sting will usually improve within a few days, but some people have allergic reactions that may require medical attention.
Stiffness after an insect bite can also be associated with more serious conditions, such as Lyme disease, malaria, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These conditions will also cause other symptoms, such as fever and malaise.
Some infections cause muscle stiffness in addition to other symptoms. These infections include: tetanus, meningitis, HIV, Legionnaires’ disease, Polio, Mononucleosis or mono, Lupus, Influenza or the flu.
Some medications can cause muscle stiffness. Muscle stiffness is a common side effect of statins, or drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol. Anesthetics used before surgery can also cause a person to experience muscle stiffness during the hours and days that follow.
Other things that may lead to occasional muscle stiffness include:
- A lack of daily physical activity
- Being overweight
- Having a poor diet
- Not sleeping properly
- Being in a cold or damp environment
When Should I 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. Someone experiencing muscle stiffness along with additional symptoms, such as fever, pain, dark urine, or swelling, stiffness after an insect bite or sting or after taking medications (especially if they have allergy symptoms) should speak to a doctor.
Over-the-counter painkillers usually work for pain relief, although stronger medications may be prescribed if necessary. In situation where a medication is causing stiffness, a doctor may adjust the dose or prescribe an alternative.
There are also, simple home remedies for relief, such as; 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, Regular exercise, alongside stretching and warming up before exercise, may help to prevent muscle stiffness, wearing the right footwear during exercise, healthy diet, wearing warm clothing in cold weather, practicing good posture, ensuring furniture at home and work gives comfort and support, as well as avoiding long periods of inactivity are preventive measures you can take against muscle stiffness.
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, try herbal teas, or add fruit slices to sparkling water. Research has shown a link between muscle stiffness and dehydration, so a person should take breaks and stay hydrated while exercising.