The Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

As orthopedic specialists, the team of experts at MidJersey Orthopaedics treats a wide variety of musculoskeletal issues. One of the most common is arthritis. Arthritis is not a single condition, though. There are more than 100 different diseases classified as arthritis. 

Two of the most common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Both conditions affect your joints, cause pain and inflammation. Arthritis can make it difficult for you to live your life comfortably. However, there are treatments available that can ease your symptoms. 

Treatments for osteoarthritis

Around 27 million people in the United States have osteoarthritis. Sometimes called “wear-and-tear arthritis,” osteoarthritis can affect your knees, lower back, hips, neck, or fingers. It’s a degenerative condition, meaning it worsens with time. 

When we treat osteoarthritis, our goal is to ease your pain by lowering the inflammation and improving your mobility. Most treatment plans for osteoarthritis include some combination of medication, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications. 


Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can be used to help ease pain from arthritis, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen can be used to lessen inflammation. In some cases, corticosteroids are recommended to reduce inflammation. 

Your symptoms, medical history, and other factors help our team determine whether you should take pills, use creams or gels, or have injections to treat your arthritis. 

Physical therapy

Although there’s no cure for arthritis, working with a physical therapist can improve your range of motion, increase the strength of the muscles that support your joints, and improve your flexibility. Physical therapy can also help you understand how to move in ways that protect your joints. 

Lifestyle modifications

If you have arthritis and are carrying around a few extra pounds, you might be surprised by how much losing weight can help. By eating a nutritious, balanced diet and getting enough exercise, you can bring your weight to a healthy range and maintain it. 

Walking, swimming, yoga, and many other forms of gentle exercise can help. Along with diet and exercise, try to get between seven and nine hours of sleep each night. 

Treatments for rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects about 1.5 million people in the United States. When you have RA, your body’s immune system malfunctions and attacks your joints and sometimes your organs. The result is pain and inflammation that can lead to joint or organ damage. 

Our treatments for RA are designed to lessen your symptoms and prevent further joint or organ damage. 

Although the treatments for RA seem similar to those for osteoarthritis, there are some differences. For example, the types of medications are different. With RA, our team is more likely to recommend disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, or DMARDs, instead of NSAIDs. A subset of DMARDs, called biologics, may also be recommended to target the inflammatory process. 

If you’d like to know more about how we treat either osteoarthritis or RA, schedule an appointment at MidJersey Orthopaedics. Our experts are happy to discuss your specific situation and make recommendations. We have two locations in Flemington, as well as facilities in Bridgewater and Washington, New Jersey. 

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