Not everyone with arthritis feels stiff in the morning. Instead of stiffness, some complain they hurt more in the morning or describe discomfort without pain. The duration of symptoms in the morning is an important clue as to what type of arthritis you may have. For example, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus patients often complain of prolonged morning stiffness or pain which may last 45 minutes or longer.
On the other hand, osteoarthritis patients symptoms typically improve within 30 minutes but may be aggravated during the day with use of the affected joints. Fibromyalgia patients often complain of generalized morning pain and stiffness that may not get better for hours. If you plan to see a doctor for initial diagnosis and treatment of your arthritis, make sure you can convey how you feel in the morning.
If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, you can expect your doctor to ask you about your morning stiffness during follow-up visits. Less morning stiffness or discomfort typically indicates that you are responding to treatment.
Dr. Zashin is clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. Dr. Zashin is author of Arthritis Without Pain - The Miracle Of TNF Blockers. The book is useful for anyone on one of the biologic drugs or considering the biologic drugs.