MSD Manual

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Quick Facts

Joint Stiffness

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Jul 2021| Content last modified Jul 2021
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Joints are places in your body where two bones come together, such as your wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.

Joints also exist where you might not think. For example, there are joints between the many bones in your feet, hands, pelvis, and spine.

What is joint stiffness?

  • Joint stiffness can be caused by injury or arthritis

  • Stiffness may be worse in the morning or get worse over the course of the day

  • Stretching and physical therapy may help with your stiffness

What causes joint stiffness?

Joint stiffness is usually caused by:

  • Holding a joint still for a long time, such as when you have a cast or splint on it

  • Different types of arthritis

  • A healed joint injury (such as a sprain)

What will happen at my doctor’s visit?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam.

If doctors aren't sure whether you have arthritis, they may do:

  • Blood tests

  • X-rays

How do doctors treat joint stiffness?

Doctors will treat the cause of your stiffness.

Doctors may also have you treat your stiffness with:

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