Muscle Stiffness
Muscle stiffness is feeling of tension and contraction in the muscles, that may limit normal range of motion. Sometimes muscles feel stiff aft...

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Definition

Muscle stiffness is the condition of muscles feeling tight and contracted rather than the usual relaxed, supple state of the muscles at rest.

Alternative Names

Muscles stiff, stiff muscles.

Synopsis

Muscle stiffness is feeling of tension and contraction in the muscles, that may limit normal range of motion. Sometimes muscles feel stiff after periods of vigorous use, for example athletic activities, physical labor or weight lifting. Other times, muscles feel stiff after periods of inactivity, such as rising out of bed in the morning or getting out of a chair from a sitting position. Muscles that are examined and found to be firm or rigid may be due to muscle spasm induced by overuse, injury, bleeding into the muscle, toxic effect from a bite or sting, infection, or environmental exposure, such as extreme heat or cold.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Acute HIV infection
  • Rhabdomyolysis
  • Overuse syndromes
  • Coccidiomyocosis
  • Dermatomyositis
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Legionnaire’s disease
  • Muscular dystrophies
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Polio
  • Sprains and strains
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Hypothermia
  • Heat illness
  • Post-anesthesia
  • Black widow spider bite

Diagnosis and Treatment

If the cause is known and deemed to be minor, such as muscle stiffness associated with exercise, then rest, massage, and gentle application of cold or heat may be helpful. Stretching and toning muscles are important for maintaining muscle flexibility and preventing stiffness. Regular exercise to improve circulation and reduce inflammation, along with warm baths, and massage therapy can help decrease muscle stiffness. Observe good posture and check the ergonomics of furniture and equipment used at home and at work. If muscle stiffness persists, or if the cause is unknown, seek medical attention.

Written by: JC Jones MA, RN
Reviewed by: Paul Auerbach, MD
Written: December 17, 2007
Last Updated: December 31, 2007
Published By: Healthline Networks Inc.
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