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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Stiff Fingers
February 2003

Q. I am a 59-year-old female. Upon arising each morning, all the fingers on each hand used to be stuck in a claw-like fashion. I could feel them clicking, or snapping, as I opened my hands. Now, only the little finger on the right hand and the middle finger on the left hand are stuck each morning. It is painful to straighten them, but the pain subsides as I continue to use them. What is this?

A. Morning stiffness can be an early sign of arthritis. An exam and some lab tests can often clarify this possibility. Fortunately the symptoms that bother you in the morning subside so as to not interfere with daily activity at this time. Try to observe whether your activity during a given day will make the joint problem better or worse the next day.

Modifying activity is one way to protect the joints, although staying active is of primary importance to long-term health of the joints. Getting an accurate diagnosis from your doctor is the first step in addressing the problem.



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