Metacarpophalangeal joint stiffness was measured using a new microprocessor controlled arthrograph in 135 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Subjects were prospectively subdivided according to the stage of the disease in the joint. Compared with a normal population stiffness variables in active rheumatoid arthritis were decreased, significantly so for non-elastic stiffness. This study casts doubts on the literal interpretation of symptomatic stiffness as an indicator of disease activity in rheumatoid arthritis and suggests a number of explanations for the discordant result.
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