Chronic Pain & Fatigue

Difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: 5 Things You Should Know

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If you’re battling joint pain and stiffness, understanding the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is crucial. While sharing some symptoms, these conditions have distinct causes, patterns, and treatment approaches. Let’s break it down into five key things you should know:

1. The Root Cause

Osteoarthritis is a result of wear and tear. Over time, the smooth cartilage that cushions your joints starts to break down, causing the bones to rub against each other. This friction leads to pain, stiffness, and inflammation. Osteoarthritis causes include age, previous injuries, being overweight, and repetitive stress on specific joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder. In this disorder, the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joint lining (synovium), causing chronic inflammation that thickens the lining, damages cartilage and bone, and ultimately leads to joint deformity.

2. The Joint Involvement Pattern

Osteoarthritis typically affects weight-bearing joints like knees, hips, and the lower back or joints that are frequently used, such as hands and fingers.

Rheumatoid arthritis often starts in the smaller joints of the hands and feet in a symmetrical pattern – meaning both sides of the body are affected equally.

3. Morning Stiffness: A Key Difference

While both conditions can cause stiffness, the duration and severity differ. Rheumatoid arthritis morning stiffness is usually more pronounced and can last for over an hour.

On the other hand, osteoarthritis stiffness tends to be milder and eases up with movement.

4. Additional Symptoms

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause systemic symptoms like fatigue, fever, and loss of appetite due to body-wide inflammation. These are uncommon with osteoarthritis, which primarily affects the joints.

5. Treatment Approaches

There is no miracle cure for either condition, but treatments differ based on the underlying cause.

Management of osteoarthritis focuses on pain relief, inflammation control, and joint protection. This might involve medication, physical therapy, weight management, and osteoarthritis self-care measures like exercise, hot/cold therapy, and using assistive devices. At Recoup, we also focus on diet, sleep, and other lifestyle factors to reduce inflammation and give you effective relief for the long term.

Rheumatoid arthritis requires a multi-pronged approach, often including disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to suppress the overactive immune system and slow disease progression in a conventional treatment approach. Recoup’s root-cause-focused treatment identifies the underlying triggers and imbalances that present as rheumatoid arthritis and takes a whole-health approach to optimize your physiological process with the help of lifestyle changes, medication, and supplementation. This means that you not only get effective relief from your symptoms but that immune function is restored.

What is root-cause healing for arthritis?

While conventional treatments aim to manage symptoms, a root-cause approach focuses on addressing the underlying source of both conditions. For osteoarthritis, this might involve targeted therapies to promote cartilage regeneration and reduce inflammation. In rheumatoid arthritis, root cause healing aims to modulate the immune system and restore its proper function.

Strategies like dietary modifications, stress management, and specific supplements are key to addressing the underlying drivers of these conditions. A root-cause approach offers hope for more effective long-term solutions. Now that you know the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, you can proactively choose the treatment that works best for you.

Arthritis of both kinds can be debilitating. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone. Our experts at Recoup can help diagnose and treat your condition from the root so that you can live your life without being held back by your illness.

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Unsure whether booking an appointment is the right step for you? We encourage you to drop us a note at We’re here to answer any questions and provide the information you need to make an informed decision about your healthcare journey.