Arthritis: Osteo vs Rheumatoid

Arthritis is a broad topic. It is defined as Acute or Chronic joint inflammation, and is often found alongside pain and structural damage.

Symptoms of Arthritis include:

•           Pain

•           Stiffness

•           Joint Deformities

•           Swelling/ Redness/ Warmth

The main difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis is that the former is due to the breakdown of cartilage or soft tissue, which causes these protective structures to degenerate.  The other is an auto-immune condition, where the body mistakenly attacks the joints as a form of protection.


Osteoarthritis is more common in those of us over 65 years old, although it can occur in younger individuals too.  This can be impacted by your activity level, the type of activity, and other lifestyle choices.

The cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis is still unknown, but we do know that it is an auto-immune condition.  The body believes that healthy tissue surrounding the end of the bone is hostile.  The body responds by attacking it and breaking it down. There is a theory that this can be caused by a highly stressful situation or life.

Symptom Differences

Alternative differences include the fact that Osteoarthritis will typically only be present in one joint at a time, whilst Rheumatoid is more ‘holistic’.  Rheumatoid will be seen throughout the body and may be seen alongside other symptoms such as ‘flu-like’ symptoms and fatigue. The timing of symptoms is likely to be different between the two variations. Osteoarthritis is usually felt more at the end of the day, after the individual has been ‘using the joint’. Rheumatoid is the opposite and is likely to feel worse after periods of rest, when the joint becomes stiff and immobile.


Due to the different causes/ suspected causes, each have a different treatment plan.  

Osteoarthritis requires a change in lifestyle, namely an increase in exercise. This is as well as anti-inflammatory medication and, in some cases, corticosteroid injections or joint replacement.

On the other hand, Rheumatoid Arthritis requires medication to reduce inflammation and slow down the progression of the disease (DMARD’s – disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs).  Although, alongside this, an increase in exercise and a healthy diet wouldn’t hurt.

In either case, an increase in exercise has been shown to increase musculature and strengthen the cartilage at the end of each joint.  A good stepping-stone to regular exercise can be Hydrotherapy (exercise within a pool).

If you recognise any of these symptoms, or would like some more advice on handling Arthritis, possibly with Hydrotherapy, please do get in touch.

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