It is important to identify why you may be feeling stiff so that an appropriate remedy can be found. Below are some of the common reasons why athletes may feel stiff.
Joint Surface Changes
Your joints may exhibit a reduced range of movement due to joint surface changes that affect the bones in or around the affected parts of your body. For example, arthritis can cause you to lose joint mobility. The joint surface changes that cause stiffness may or may not be accompanied by pain. It may, therefore, be premature for you to rule out joint surface changes just because you don't feel any pain in the joints that have reduced movement compared to what you have been used to.
Soft Tissue Changes
You can also become stiff because of changes to the soft tissues in your body. For example, your stiffness may be a result of the loss of contractile tissues within your muscles. Such a soft tissue change can be triggered by excessive exercise, aging, diseases, injuries or prolonged immobility. Once again, the stiffness due to soft tissue changes can be accompanied by some pain or it may be painless.
Another kind of stiffness that many people experience is categorised as protective stiffness. This form of stiffness cannot be linked to any soft tissue or joint surface changes. Instead, the stiffness is triggered by the actions of the nerves around the affected part of your body, such as the shoulder. This form of stiffness is activated to shield or protect that part of the body from a perceived threat. For example, you may feel protective stiffness after a particularly strenuous bout of training. The nerves in your legs can trigger this form of stiffness to discourage you from participating in any additional training before your leg muscles have had a chance to recover from the previous training session. Scans and other diagnostic tests will be unable to detect any structural changes in your soft tissues or bones if you are suffering from protective stiffness.
It may be hard for you to identify the kind of stiffness that you may be suffering from. The best course of action to take is to contact a sports physiotherapist so that they can examine you properly. That professional may also conduct additional diagnostic tests to isolate the type of stiffness that you are experiencing so that the best solution can be selected.