Why Are My Joints Stiff?

While some cases of stiff joints are minor, others are serious and may interfere with your mobility and day-to-day comfort. Contrary to popular belief, stiff joints are not always the result of aging. There are a number of lifestyle factors and conditions that may lead you to experience stiffness in your joints. Let's take a closer look at several of the reasons your joints may be stiff.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Known as an autoimmune disease, RA leads to joint pain throughout your body. It occurs when your immune system attacks your joints and other healthy body parts. In addition to joint stiffness, RA often leads to pain, stiffness, and inflammation. While there is no cure for RA, this condition can be controlled through medications and other conservative treatments.


Osteoarthritis is considered the most common form of arthritis. It is often caused by the natural process of aging as well as joint damage that stems from injuries like torn cartilage or dislocated joints. Unlike RA, osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition that worsens over time. Conservative measures may help manage its symptoms.


The inflammation of the bursae or small, fluid-filled sacs in the joints is referred to as bursitis. Bursitis is usually seen in wider joints like knees, shoulders, hips, ankles, and elbows. The good news is it often resolves through rest, physical therapy, and injections. In some cases, however, a surgical procedure may be necessary to drain the bursae.

Overuse Injuries

Repetitive activities that lead to wear and tear often result in overuse injuries. They are widely seen in those who play sports or conduct activities at work. Also known as overuse syndrome and repetitive stress injuries, overuse injuries are usually caused by sprains, strains, stress fractures, and nerve compression. Overuse injuries are initially treated with rest.


Tendinitis or tendonitis occurs when the tendon, which connects bone to muscle becomes inflamed or irritated. It usually develops from repetitive movements over time that stem from sports, hobbies, or jobs. Pain relievers, corticosteroids, and physical therapy are often recommended to relive this condition.

Treating Stiff Joints

If you have persistent joint stiffness and are unsure of it's cause, it's a good idea to visit a doctor. While treatment will depend on the cause, most joint stiffness can be improved via over-the-counter medications, cold or hot compresses, steroids, and physical therapy. Surgery may be necessary in the most serious cases.

All information provided on this website is for information purposes only. Please see a healthcare professional for medical advice. If you are seeking this information in an emergency situation, please call 911 and seek emergency help.

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