People often tell me that their doctor has diagnosed them with arthritis. I proceed to ask if it is osteoarthritis (OA) or rheumatoid arthritis (RA).  Typically the answer is always OA. With that being said, it is important to know what the difference is between the two.

In Latin, arthro means joint and itis means inflammation. Both OA and RA are chronic, incurable and will cause joint pain with/without inflammation. Even though some of their signs and symptoms may overlap, it is important to understand that they are separate conditions that arise from different causes and present with specific symptoms.

OA is typically seen in those individuals over the age of 65. However, other factors such as repetitions/overuse, previous injury, obesity and genetic factors may predispose one to OA.

OA is a progressive degenerative condition that is a result of wear and tear between two joints. As time passes, the cartilage within our joints break down causing them to rub against each other. This condition may also produce inflammatory symptoms, but mainly it is the breakdown of cartilage that leads to this condition.

Signs and symptoms of OA may include but are not limited to, dull achy pain that is greater on one side than the other, stiffness that reduces with movement, clicking/cracking popping in the joints/spine and swelling.

RA is an autoimmune disorder that may affect the entire body by producing inflammatory symptoms, precisely at the joints. The body’s immune system identifies our “normal joints, ” as being “abnormal” and as a result, it produces an inflammatory reaction at the joint which can lead to excruciating pain. If the inflammation is not controlled damage around the cartilage and bone may occur. This condition typically presents in females between 30-60 years of age.

Signs and symptoms of RA may include those that are similar to OA but may also include, fever, swelling, malaise, extreme pain that does not reduce with movement or exercise and can present in multiple joints. RA typically presents equally on both sides of the body, unlike osteoarthritis.

OA and RA can be managed with conservative therapies such as chiropractic, massage therapy, physiotherapy, exercises, stretches, and diet. However, medical attention may be required from different healthcare providers to either diagnose or create a treatment plan that is more patient specific.