ZocdocAnswersWhy are my grandmother's muscles so stiff?

Question

Why are my grandmother's muscles so stiff?

I live with my grandmother and she keeps saying that her arm muscles feel really stiff. Is this just part of getting old or is something wrong with her? What should I have her doctor look for?

Answer

Stiff muscles are a very common complaint, and one that usually goes away with time. Most often they are due to overuse, a small injury that resolves by itself and occurred without being noticed, or a viral infection that causes wide spread muscle aches. They become concerning when they persist for an extended period of time, start to impair the ability to perform normal daily activities, or are associated with other symptoms. For example, if the muscle aches your grandmother has now seem to be getting better, than it is probably something that you can watch for a bit longer. If, however, she is now unable to lift her arms to fix her hair, then she should see her doctor sooner rather than later. There are many potential causes of this, some of which are serious and others which can be not serious at all. Auto-immune disorder can occasionally present in this fashion, as can nerve weakness due either to medications or recent surgery. Even conditions of overall poor conditioning or malnutrition can present in this fashion. As "common things are common," her doctor will start by reviewing the obvious and likely causes. Good luck, and please speak to a doctor soon.

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