Explaining the pain – Is it Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis

If opening containers becomes more difficult because of painful hands, or if climbing stairs produces pain in the knees, “Arthritis” is often the first thing that comes to mind. The two different types of arthritis are Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA).

There are many similarities between OA and RA, including joint pain and inflammation. Although they both affect the joints, they’re still different in term of symptoms. OA is commonly defined as joint stiffness caused by the gradual wear down of protective cartilage and bones beginning to scrape against each other, while RA occurs when a person’s immune system mistakenly defends healthy tissues in the joints.

Key differences between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis



Rheumatoid Arthritis


Degenerative joint disorder

Autoimmune disorder

Common age of onset

More prevalent in older adults (age over 50)

May begin any time in life.

Speed of onset

Develops gradually and intermittently over several months or years

Worsens over several weeks or a few months.

Description of symptoms

Joint swelling usually present asymmetrically, often begins on one side of the body and limited to one set of joints.

Joint swelling usually present symmetrically, often affects small and large joints on both sides of the body.

Localised symptoms, only affects the joint and its surrounding tissues. Commonly those closest to the tip of the finger

Affects multiple joints, can occur in any joints.

Morning stiffness usually lasts less than 1 hour and often goes away after just a few minutes of activity.

Prolonged joint stiffness

Pain and stiffness in affected joints accompanied by swelling and restricted mobility

Affects the entire body (lungs, heart, eyes). Fatigue, fever, weakness and minor joint aches.

Living Life with OA
Despite a very inconvenient disease to have, both OA and RA patients usually benefit from exercise programmes that may include physical therapy and rehabilitation. In general, exercises that emphasize on stretching, strengthening, posture correction, and range of motion are deemed appropriate. Examples include low-impact aerobics, swimming, tai chi, and low-stress yoga. However, those suffering from osteoporosis as well must be cautious to avoid activities that include bending forward from the waist, twisting the spine, or lifting heavy weights. Those with RA must compensate for limited movement in affected joints. Always check with your doctor to determine whether an exercise program is safe for your specific medical situation.

The joints are one of the most important components of the skeletal structure supporting every single movement. Beat the pain, regain flexibility and bring quality to life once again! For healthy individuals, start young in preserving and protecting joint health.

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