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Osteoarthritis vs Rheumatoid arthritis

Arthritis is a common term used to describe joint pain and stiffness, however osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can differ with presenting complaints. 


RA is an autoimmune condition where the body attacks itself. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Red, hot, swollen joints 

  • Can appear in the joints of the hands, elbows, feet, knees, shoulders and neck. 

  • Pain is typically felt with stiffness in the morning, and relieves with movement, but doing too much movement may aggravate your condition. 

  • Fatigue and malaise

  • Morning stiffness longer than 60 minutes

  • Low grade fever

  • Insidious onset

The cause of RA is unknown, however it typically presents in women 20-40 years old. Treatment usually involves medication and osteopathic treatment can help to reduce painful and tight muscles surrounding the sore joints, and gentle joint mobilisation to help increase joint movement. 


OA is the most common joint disorder and typically occurs in weight bearing joints. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Affecting joints of the low back, hip, knee, shoulder, base of the thumb

  • Gradual onset stiffness

  • Pain is aggravated by weight baring

  • Morning stiffness less than 30 minutes

The cause of OA is generally age related changes and lifestyle impacts over the years. Treatment generally is without medication although paracetamol can help with pain relief. Osteopathy aims to help with joint flexibility and muscle relaxation whilst building strength to decrease the load through the painful structures. I.e - building bottom/gluteal strength to help take pressure off the knees. 

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