Muscle Stiffness symptoms, causes and treatment

Having stiff muscles is a common condition wherein the muscles feel uncomfortably tight, and it becomes uneasy to move around than usual.

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When you have stiff muscles, there is discomfort in movement, especially after resting. This condition may also be accompanied by cramping, discomfort, and pain. 

It is usually a different case than muscle spasticity or rigidity. In these two cases, the muscles stay rigid despite being are immobile. Muscle stiffness typically clears up even without medication. If you are feeling stiffness in your muscles, you will find comfort in stretching and regular exercise. On the other hand, this condition can also be something serious. If there are other signs and symptoms with muscle stiffness, it is best to consult with your doctor. 

Causes of Muscle Stiffness

Generally, muscle stiffness happens after exercise, lifting weights, and hard physical labor. You will also experience stiffness after some time of inactivity, such as when you wake up and get up in the morning and when you stand up from sitting position after an extended period. 

The most usual causes of muscle stiffness are sprains or strains. When your muscles are strained and sprained from activity, you may also experience pain, bruising, swelling, redness, and limited mobility. 

Secondary conditions which can also cause muscle stiffness are infections, insect sting or bite, anesthesia, and medications from surgery and injury from intense cold or heat. 

In most cases, symptoms of muscle stiffness can be treated at home. However, if the strain or sprain causes extreme pain, and other symptoms won’t go away, make an appointment with your doctor. Stiff muscles accompanied by other symptoms like fever may indicate an underlying health condition.

Apart from the usual causes, other conditions can lead to muscle stiffness that is accompanied by other symptoms. Some of these cases include the following conditions.

  • Tetanus – a type of  bacterial infection that you can get from dirt or soil. It can cause muscle stiffness along with other symptoms such as rapid heart rate, stomach pain, and cramping, difficulty swallowing, and elevated blood pressure.
  • Meningitis – an infection that affects the nervous system. A person with meningitis may experience muscle stiffness along with other symptoms such as sudden high fever, stiff neck, nausea, vomiting, and fever. 


  • HIV – this disease may have muscle stiffness, fever, rash, sore throat, and nausea as additional symptoms. 
  • Other infections – in some cases, infections such as Polio and Valley Fever also have muscle stiffness as its symptoms. It may also be accompanied by cough, fever, sore throat chest pain, headache, and chills.
  • Infectious Mononucleosis – is a condition that is usual in teenagers. A patient with this condition may experience symptoms such as inflamed lymph nodes, tiredness, muscle stiffness, and swollen tonsils.
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus – the most common form of lupus as well as other conditions like polymyalgia rheumatica have similar symptoms that include stiff muscles, tiredness, weight loss, and depression. 

Muscle stiffness might be a common condition, however, if it has other symptoms such as those mentioned above, inform your healthcare provider.

Diagnosis and Treatment

When you consult your doctor about stiff muscles, they will ask you about the symptoms that you are experiencing. Your doctor may also inquire about your medical history. Be truthful in answering your doctor’s queries for them to come up with the right diagnosis. Your symptoms and your answers will help them determine the cause of your condition. 

Your doctor may also implement a physical examination to determine the stiffness and pain. To confirm their diagnosis, they may order for laboratory tests such as blood tests, X-rays, MRI and CT scans.

Treatment and Home Remedy for Muscle Stiffness 

For muscle stiffness, that is a symptom of an underlying health condition; doctors will work out a treatment plan with the patient. They may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines to lessen pain and stiffness in the affected area.

In most cases, over-the-counter pain medication works for pain relief. However, stronger painkillers may be prescribed if needed. More so, if a medication is causing stiffness, you should inform your doctor so that they can adjust the dose or prescribe an alternative medicine. 

There are also several home remedies that you can apply for most cases of muscle stiffness. You may be able to treat your stiff muscles with massage, some rest and by using a hot or cold compress.


If muscles feel tight as well as stiff, applying a hot compress will work better. But if the muscles are swollen and inflamed, using cold compress is the right option. You may choose among heating pads, hot and cold packs, or heat therapy patches for your application.

When using a hot or cold compress on the affected part, apply for not more than 20 minutes. Allow 20 minutes of rest before reapplying the compress of your choice. If you are not sure which option to use for your condition, call your healthcare professional for instructions.  

Another remedy to help relieve muscle stiffness is stretching. It keeps muscles flexible, increases circulation, reduces inflammation, and prevents stiffness.


If you are feeling some muscle stiffness, you should make some time for exercise, take a warm bath, stretch before and after exercise, and massage affected areas. 

Specific muscle groups are more prone to stiffness than others. Here are some tips on how you stretch and relieve stiffness on these muscle groups.

  • Thigh – perform quad stretches. You can do this by standing straight, then bend one leg at the knee. Then raise your foot towards your back. Hold your ankle with your hand for about 10 to 15 seconds before switching on the other foot.
  • Neck – sit up or stand upright and relax your body. Then, carefully roll your neck from one side down on to the other side. Do this for several counts. 


  • Lower Back – lie flatly on your back and bend your knee towards your body. Pull it close to you. Your back and shoulders must stay flat on the floor. Hold your position for ten to twenty seconds before switching on the other side. 

What are the Normal Conditions?

Having a healthy muscle condition allows you to move freely, and it also keeps your body strong. When you don’t have any pain or soreness in your muscles, you can enjoy doing your usual activities like doing household chores, walking, running, dancing, or playing sports.  

Likewise, your muscles keep your joints in good shape and keep your balance. With strong muscles, you are less likely to slip and fall. Here are a few tips to help you keep your muscles strong and healthy. 

Have a healthy diet and take vitamin supplements if you have some deficiency. Likewise, there are several things to consider when you want to prevent muscle stiffness. It is essential that you are getting all the proper nutrients and that you stay hydrated.


By making sure that you are hydrated, you are also helping your muscles function optimally. Experts agree that you need eight glasses of water daily. If you’re physically active and you sweat more, you need more fluids to keep you hydrated. Likewise, dehydration during exercise heightens the risk of muscle damage and more soreness. 

Additionally, there is a significant advantage of having more magnesium and calcium in your diet as they are essential to muscle health. Keeping muscles healthy also means a lesser risk of developing muscle pain, soreness, or stiffness. Some common calcium sources include –

  • Salmon
  • Milk
  • Dairy products
  • Soy products
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Rice
  • Almond milk 

And although uncommon, magnesium deficiency also leads to muscle problems. Adults should get at least 310 mg of this mineral each day to promote better muscle health. Some common sources of magnesium are fish, nuts, seeds, bananas, and dark leafy vegetables. 

Preventing Stiff Muscles

If you have been experiencing stiff muscles, try to do the following tips:

Choose home and office furniture that provides support and comfort. Pick out those with ergonomic styles to ensure that your body is not strained with you are using it.

Practice proper posture, whether you are sitting down, standing up, or walking. 

Reduce stiffness during working hours by taking regular breaks. Get up, stretch, walk around every hour or so to keep your muscles loose and flexible. It may also help to set the alarm to remind you to take a break and stretch your muscles. 

Risks of Having Muscle Stiffness

The most common cause of muscle stiffness is hard physical labor or exercise. In most cases, stiffness happens when you start a new exercise routine or have increased your intensity or duration of the program. 

People who are especially active in sports and physical activity may typically experience muscle stiffness associated with exercise or sports. On the other hand, the following conditions are considered as risk factors for having stiff muscles –

  • Being overweight
  • A poor diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Lack of sleep
  • Being in a damp and cold environment

When to Seek Medical Attention

If your muscle stiffness won’t go away or if you have other symptoms, consult your doctor as soon as you can. More so, you need to seek immediate medical care if you have muscle stiffness with the following symptoms – 

  • Extreme muscle weakness
  • Fever with stiffness in the neck
  • Muscle pain after taking a new medicine
  • Pain, redness, and swelling in the area where there is muscle stiffness