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  • Alyssa Abrahamson

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. Osteoarthritis: What’s the Difference?

As a gal who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis 22 years ago, I am no stranger to chronic pain, inflammation, stiffness, and limited range of motion in the joints.

Most adults experience joint pain from time to time and while there are various causes and joint conditions, two of the more familiar are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Some symptoms overlap but the two conditions are very different.

What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, occurs when the protective cartilage within a joint begins to break down over time and the changes happen slowly over many years.

Symptoms of osteoarthritis include

  • Joint pain, inflammation, and stiffness especially after a lot of activity

  • Commonly affects hands, lower back, neck, knees, hips, and feet

  • Loss of flexibility and reduced range of motion in joint

  • Tenderness or discomfort when pressing on the affected areas

  • Grating, crackling, clicking, or popping sounds when moving the joints

Factors that make it more likely to develop osteoarthritis

  • Aging

  • Obesity

  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Having other types of inflammatory arthritis like RA or gout

  • Prior injury or surgery to a joint

  • Overuse from repetitive movements of the joint

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease where your immune system mistakenly attacks your own body’s tissues causing joint pain, inflammation, joint damage and deformity, and loss of function.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease and the inflammation associated with RA can damage other parts of the body including the skin, eyes, lungs, heart and other tissues like muscles, cartilage, and ligaments.

RA symptoms include

  • Joint pain, tenderness, swelling or stiffness when both resting and moving

  • Affects any joints: wrists, hands, feet, shoulders, elbows, spine, knees, and jaw

  • Occurs in a symmetrical pattern, meaning if one knee has the condition the other knee does too

  • Loss of joint function and deformities

  • Weakness and chronic fatigue

  • Rheumatoid nodules, or firm lumps, beneath the skin

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

The cause of RA is unknown.

Researchers believe it’s a combination of genes and exposure to environmental factors such as a virus, infection, or bacteria. Physical or emotional stress can also trigger the development of RA.

To recap, the main differences are:

Osteoarthritis is significantly more common and is caused by mechanical wear and tear on joints therefore it tends to develop gradually over several years, with age.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune system attacks the joints. It can happen at any age. The joint pain and issues associated with RA can develop and worsen over a few weeks or months, and RA can affect more than just the joints.


For both forms of arthritis – and any joint pain – there are many things you can do to help relieve pain and support healing.

Over the 2 decades I‘ve lived with RA, I’ve implemented numerous holistic lifestyle, mindset, and nutrition practices to support my own health and healing.

I’ve become an expert at helping people lower inflammation, nurture their relationship with their body, and prioritize their health.

I can help you too. Truly, what are you waiting for?

Love, Your Wellness Coach,


August 3, 2022



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