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Learn About The Differences Between Rheumatoid Arthritis And Osteoarthritis

By Larry Grine, PT, MSPT, OCS, ATC, CSCS, CDN | April 28, 2016

Arthritis affects 53 million adults and over 300,00 children in the United States alone. With over 100 forms of arthritis, each disease is diagnosed and treated differently. Here are some facts regarding Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis:

Rheumatoid Arthritis

WHAT IT IS:
  • Long-term autoimmune disease causing antibodies to develop from an altered immune response
  • May initially begin in a couple of joints; most frequently attacks the wrist, hands, elbows, shoulders, knees, and ankles
  • 2-3x more common in women, but more severe symptoms in men
SYMPTOMS:
  • Joint stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Redness & warmth
  • Worse in the morning
DIAGNOSIS:
  • Physical exam for inflammation
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
TREATMENT:
  • Currently there is no cure
  • Treatable with gentle exercise for range of motion and movement; rest during flare-ups
  • Maintain a healthy diet filled with Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Fiber; control cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight

Osteoarthritis

WHAT IT IS:
  • Effects of wear and tear on the joint cartilage causing loss of cartilage on articulating joint surfaces
  • Caused by aging, traumatic injury, and obesity {every pound increases stress on hip by 6 pounds and on knees by 4 pounds}
  • Commonly involves back, neck, hand, wrist, hip, knees, and ankles
  • More common in men over 45 years old, more common in women under 45 years old
SYMPTOMS:
  • Vary greatly from patient to patient
  • Pain in the affected joint; worse in the morning and later in the day
  • Stiffness after periods of inactivity
  • Swelling
  • Warmth
  • “Joint creaking”
  • Late stage osteoarthritis can lead to pain during rest and bone spurring can be present
DIAGNOSIS:
  • Physical exam
  • Pain
  • X-ray
  • MRI
TREATMENT:
  • Specific to the joint{s} involved
  • Pain medication/NSAIDs
  • Topical analgesics
  • Weight loss/exercise
  • Surgery for total joint replacement as needed

About The Authors

Larry Grine, PT, MSPT, OCS, ATC, CSCS, CDN

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