Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis but rheumatoid arthritis can be far more disabling.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an inflammatory condition that primarily involves the synovium (lining of the joint), but internal organs can also be affected. Multiple joints are usually affected with rheumatoid arthritis but there is no degeneration of the actual joint.

Osteoarthritis, commonly called arthritis, is a degenerative joint disease caused by a breakdown of the joint cartilage covering the bones. Cartilage facilitates the smooth movement of joints and degeneration can cause bone to rub on bone, a condition that is very painful. Osteoarthritis usually begins in a single joint.

Osteoarthritis is mainly as a result of ageing but other factors can predispose joints to osteoarthritis, such as:

  • Joint injury
  • Being overweight
  • Family history
  • Repetitive use of specific joints

Researchers have so far been unable to find any single cause of Rheumatoid Arthritis, the most common theory being a genetic predisposition to the disease.

Common symptoms of osteoarthritis:

  • Morning joint stiffness that last less than 30 minutes
  • Pain in the joint after activity
  • Pain that worsens towards the end of the day
  • Joint swelling and warmth
  • Bony enlargements in the distal joints of the fingers

Morning joint stiffness lasting more than an hour, extreme tiredness, and symmetrical involvement of joints, not just one side are all characteristics of rheumatoid arthritis. Unlike osteoarthritis there can also be multiple organ involvement.


  • Gentle joint traction and mobilization
  • Stretching and massage to help achieve good muscle balance and tone
  • Dry needling and friction to stimulate tissue repair and healing

Osteopathy cannot cure osteoarthritis but can help manage the condition and help maximise the use of affected joints.