An introduction to stiffness and fibromyalgia
Stiffness of muscles and joints is the feeling that a joint will not easily move and does not feel comfortable. It is often accompanied by pain, and it can be hard to bear weight on the affected joint.
For fibromyalgia sufferers, the stiffness is often worse in the morning, making it difficult to get going and ready for the day ahead. This can have a negative effect on getting to work in the morning or getting the kids ready for school.
Why does fibromyalgia cause stiffness?
Although many people notice a little stiffening of their joints as they age, this does not explain why many younger fibromyalgia patients experience severe stiffness. The condition is far from being well-understood; however, research is ongoing and definite conclusions may be reached in the future.
As muscle pain is a primary symptom of fibromyalgia, this may contribute to muscle stiffness. Generally when a joint feels sore, you will be reluctant to move it. However, this can mean that you lose elasticity and flexibility in the joint, causing it to progressively become stiffer. During the night, we do not use or move our limbs as much as during the day, which may explain why stiffness is often worse in the morning.
Additionally, studies suggest that the arteries of fibromyalgia patients, which should be flexible and strong, are often weaker and less efficient. This leads to poor circulation and a less efficient blood supply to muscle and joints, another possible contributor to stiffness.
What home remedies are there for stiffness?
As the cause of joint stiffness in fibromyalgia is not fully understood, tackling the root of the problem is difficult. However, home remedies focus on easing your symptoms and making them more manageable.
Keeping your joints mobile is important as this will help pain as well as stiffness. Perform gentle stretches at night before going to bed, and in the morning when you get up. You may also find it helpful to stretch whenever you feel your joints tightening up.
Warmth relaxes muscles and encourages them to loosen up. Having a warm bath can be very effective, and may reduce muscle cramping and restlessness. If taken before bed, this can help you get a good night’s sleep, if taken in the morning, can relieve the worst of morning stiffness and help you get going.
Low-impact exercise, such as swimming and aerobics are also worthwhile, particularly on a regular basis. The buoyancy of the water supports your joints, helping you to effectively stretch them.
Ensuring your muscles are receiving plenty of essential nutrients is also important, and can be achieved through eating a healthy and balanced diet. It is also important to keep your muscles hydrated by drinking plenty of water, as dehydration can lead to muscle cramps. It may be helpful to take a magnesium supplement, as the typical British diet is lacking in this important mineral, and magnesium deficiency can cause poor muscle function.
Want a better night's sleep? Get your FREE 6-day personalised sleep programme now
Simply answer 2 quick questions to receive personalised sleep tips straight to your email inbox.
Are there herbal remedies to help me?
Devil’s Claw is a traditional herbal remedy for joint pain. It has a similar action to steroids in reducing pain and inflammation, but without the steroid content, so does not result in the associated side-effects. Devil’s Claw can be taken internally, such as with licensed herbal remedy Atrosan® Devil’s Claw tablets.
If you are looking for a herbal remedy to apply externally to a stiff or painful joint, the herb arnica has traditionally been used in such a way. Licensed herbal remedy Atrogel® arnica gel contains fresh extracts of this herb to relieve pain and stiffness in muscles.
What about conventional medicines?
A doctor may suggest treating your fibromyalgia with Lyrica, Cymbalta or Savella, drugs which have been described to combat the symptoms of pain and fatigue. This, in turn may improve muscle and joint stiffness.
There are also certain drugs available specifically to deal with stiffness. These are commonly prescribed for symptoms of MS (Multiple Sclerosis), a neurological condition which can cause severe stiffness in muscles.