Do your fingers refuse to obey you? Have you ever woken up with stiffness in your fingers? This can make your day-to-day activities quite difficult. Simple tasks – like making coffee or tying your shoelaces – suddenly become difficult and time consuming.
The morning joint stiffnesses can have many causes, including arthritis, pregnancy, previous trauma or overuse of a treatment or a drug. All is not lost, however: by making lifestyle and dietary changes, much can be done to ease the morning routine.
Causes of joint/finger stiffness
First things first: to alleviate joint stiffness, you must first identify the cause.
Arthritis is one of the main diseases that cause pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints of the fingers.
Arthritis (which literally means “inflammation of the joints”) is a health problem that affects the joints and surrounding tissues as well as other connective tissues in the body.
More than 100 rheumatic diseases and conditions are grouped under the general term arthritis.
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the two most commonly diagnosed types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis, which affects 10% of the Canadian population, is the result of cartilage degeneration and most often affects the distal and proximal interphalangeal joints of the fingers, as well as the spine, hips, knees and feet.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is the result of a genetic predisposition combined with an inappropriate immune response, leading to a form of chronic autoimmune inflammation within the synovial membrane that lines the space between the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects the proximal interphalangeal and metacarpophalangeal joints of the fingers, in addition to the wrists, ankles and toe joints.
To determine the etiology of ankylosed finger joints, it is important to know how long the stiffness lasts and when it occurs. If the finger joints remain stiff even after several hours of movement in the morning, it suggests a systemic inflammatory problem such as rheumatoid arthritis.
On the other hand, when finger joint stiffness immediately improves with movement upon awakening, but worsens with prolonged activity or exercise, it may be osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can also occur together.
What can you do to relieve finger stiffness?
In all cases, it is essential to get a firm diagnosis from a health care professional so that symptoms can be understood and managed.
In the meantime, there are a number of dietary and lifestyle changes that can be made to avoid exacerbating symptoms and further joint deterioration:
Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet.
Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish, nuts and avocados, on a daily basis, and consider taking a fish oil supplement containing at least 2000 mg of EPA and DHA combined. A 2010 meta-analysis showed that fish oil substantially reduced joint stiffness in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and may have a similar effect in people with osteoarthritis.
Eliminate pro-inflammatory foods
Refined sugar, trans fats, alcohol and many dairy products should be avoided. Pro-inflammatory foods add to the inflammation already present in the body and can make the morning stiffness in the finger joints worse.
Maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI)
Weight control, through regular physical activity, helps reduce pressure on joints and stimulates the “feel good” hormones endorphins and enkephalins. Try to exercise three times a week for 45 minutes to an hour per session.
Apply topical preparations to relieve symptoms. During bouts of pain, try a joint pain pill or arnica gel to reduce pain, swelling and stiffness.
Reduce your daily stress level
Stress can make finger stiffness worse, so participating in relaxing activities such as yoga or meditation can help relieve some symptoms.
Fingers stiffness mainly affects women. Do not hesitate to contact a professional as soon as possible if the problem is aggravated despite following the suggested solutions.