FAQ008: What is the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?

Arthritis is more than just wear and tear on your Joints!

Often times when we think about arthritis, we think of joint replacement surgery, pain and stiffness from the wear and tear we have done to our bodies over the years. But arthritis really is an umbrella term for a large amount of different conditions.

Two of the most commons ones: osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

OA vs RA… What is the difference?

We hear about osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis but can have a hard time differentiating between the two.

OA refers to the classic wear and tear. It is often seen in the knees, hips, and low back (though we’re starting to see it creep up in other areas as well). The pain stays in the same joint. It is characterized by pain, stiffness and swelling.

RA is more of a global condition. It is an autoimmune disease meaning that our body is attacking itself. In this case, your body is attacking the joints and causing a lot of the symptoms similar to osteoarthritis. RA is more widespread. It is more common in the small joints in your hands and feet. The pain also travels. You have flare ups and remissions.

Really if you think about it, osteoarthritis is … simpler? You lost cartilage in a particular joint and it hurts now. RA has widespread inflammation that can affect different parts of the body at different times.

Management has many Similarities

Exercise is going to be a staple for managing both OA and RA. We published the complete how-to guide for exercising with RA (you can check it out here).


Think that you can’t workout because you have severe arthritis in your knee? Think again! We can help you. We did a frequently asked question video with some suggestions. You can check that one out here!


Christina Prevett

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