Duration Of Morning Stiffness

What Causes Morning Stiffness?

Morning stiffness can have various causes, ranging in severity from 'needs attention' to 'serious'.  Finding the true cause means ruling out or confirming each possibility – in other words, diagnosis.

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Diagnosis is usually a complex process due to the sheer number of possible causes and related symptoms.  In order to diagnose morning stiffness, we could:

  • Research the topic
  • Find a doctor with the time
  • Use a diagnostic computer system.
The process is the same, whichever method is used.

Step 1: List all Possible Causes

We begin by identifying the disease conditions which have "morning stiffness" as a symptom.  Here are eight of many possibilities:
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Lupus (SLE)
  • Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Psoriatic Arthritis
  • Scleroderma
  • Chronic Fatigue-Fibromyalgia
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis

Step 2: Build a Symptom Checklist

We then identify all possible symptoms and risk factors of each possible cause, and check the ones that apply:
dry eyes
brittle fingernails
somewhat disturbed sleep
regular sore throats
swollen axillary nodes
fatigue after slight exertion
Heberden's nodes
regular morning stiffness
metallic taste in mouth
inflamed cuticles
unexplained fevers that hit hard
... and more than 70 others

Step 3: Rule Out or Confirm each Possible Cause

A differential diagnosis of your symptoms and risk factors finds the likely cause of morning stiffness:
Cause Probability Status
Lupus (SLE) 97% Confirm
Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis 25% Unlikely
Osteoarthritis 15% Unlikely
Rheumatoid Arthritis 5% Ruled out
Psoriatic Arthritis 2% Ruled out
Ankylosing Spondylitis 1% Ruled out
Chronic Fatigue-Fibromyalgia 0% Ruled out
Scleroderma 0% Ruled out
* This is a simple example to illustrate the process

Arriving at a Correct Diagnosis

The Analyst™ is our online diagnosis tool that learns all about you through a straightforward process of multi-level questioning, providing diagnosis at the end.

If you indicate chronic morning stiffness, The Analyst™ will ask further questions including this one:
How long is it before your morning stiffness/pain improves? Select the answer that best describes your usual experience.
Possible responses:
→ I don't have morning stiffness / don't know
→ My joints feel better within 30 minutes
→ My joints feel better within 45 minutes to 2 hours
→ It is several hours before my joints feel better
→ Variable - sometimes minutes, sometimes hours
Based on your response to this question, which may indicate morning stiffness that eases rapidly, morning stiffness for 45-120 minutes, morning stiffness lasting hours or variable duration morning stiffness, The Analyst™ will consider possibilities such as:
Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia Syndrome

Fibromyalgia patients often complain of generalized morning pain and stiffness that may not get better for hours.


Osteoarthritis patients' symptoms typically improve within 30 minutes but may be aggravated during the day with use of the affected joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis patients often complain of prolonged morning stiffness or pain which may last 45 minutes or longer.

... and also rule out issues such as:
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