Skip to main content

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are two of the most common forms of arthritis, affecting millions of people worldwide. Although they share similar symptoms, they are distinct conditions with different underlying causes and treatment approaches. In this blog post, we will discuss the key differences between OA and RA and explain how a physiotherapist can help manage the symptoms of both conditions.

What is Osteoarthritis (OA)?

Osteoarthritis affects the entire joint, particularly the articular cartilage that covers the ends of the bones. The cartilage changes over time due to factors such as genetics, age-related changes, and mechanical stress on the joint. The capacity of the cartilage to tolerate normal loads may change, resulting in joint discomfort and stiffness. This condition typically affects weight-bearing joints like the hips, knees, and spine. Over time, the cartilage providing a smooth surface for the joint to glide on thins and becomes less resilient. Consequently, the joint may not function as smoothly, resulting in discomfort and limited mobility.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the joints. The immune system mistakenly attacks the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints, causing it to become inflamed and thickened. This can lead to changes to the joint structure and pain. RA can affect any joint in the body, but it typically affects the small joints in the hands and feet. The symptoms of RA may include pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function. In some cases, it can also cause systemic symptoms such as fatigue, fever, and weight loss. The exact cause of RA is not yet known, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There is currently no cure for RA, but early diagnosis and treatment can help manage the symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease.

How can Physiotherapists help?

Physiotherapists can play an important role in managing the symptoms of OA and RA. Your Physiotherapist will develop an individualised exercise program with the aim of improving joint mobility, flexibility, and strength and overall health and wellness.

While some aspects of treatment vary between the different conditions, it is important for both individuals with OA and RA to participate in activities such as swimming, cycling, and walking – these activities can be effective in reducing joint pain and stiffness. Exercises that focus on improving range of motion and strengthening the muscles around the affected joint can be helpful. In addition to exercise, physiotherapists can also provide education on joint protection, pain management techniques, and assistive devices such as braces and splints. Physiotherapy can also help individuals with OA and RA adopt a healthy lifestyle by promoting weight management, stress reduction, and proper nutrition. Physiotherapists will work closely with other healthcare providers to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses the specific needs of each individual.

If you have any questions about how to best manage you arthritis, come in and speak to one of our experienced Physios at Bend + Mend.

Clodagh Gray

Clodagh completed a Bachelor of Physiotherapy at University College Dublin, Ireland and graduated with a first-class honours degree. She worked in both the private and public setting in Ireland for 2 years before relocating to Sydney to expand her career. Clodagh loves working with people of all ages and activity levels to help them overcome injuries, aches, and pains and to make sure they are feeling their best and healthiest version of themselves. She has worked with a diverse caseload including sports injuries, orthopaedic surgeries, chronic pain, paediatric and geriatric patients. Clodaghs approach to treating patients is evidence based with patient-centred goal setting to obtain optimal results for her patient’s specific needs.Clodagh is an APPI certified Pilates Instructor and believes that movement and exercise is medicine. She is passionate about holistic health and utilises a range of different treatment options to ensure her patients can enhance their movement, reduce pain and ultimately get back to what they love doing. She uses a combination of exercise prescription along with manual therapy and dry needling techniques for pain management, improving function, injury prevention and rehabilitation.

Leave a Reply