Arthritis and arthralgia: Know the difference between these joint pain conditions

Arthritis and arthralgia are both connected to joints, but they are not same. Here are some key differences between arthritis and arthralgia.
View All Images A woman having pain due to arthritis
Are arthritis and arthralgia the same? Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 3 Apr 2024, 01:15 pm IST
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When there is pain in the joints, two terms pop up in our mind – arthritis and arthralgia. The two conditions may be associated with joint pain, but there are differences between the two. While arthritis involves joint inflammation, leading to pain, arthralgia presents joint pain without inflammation. Right from symptoms to causes, read on to know about the differences between arthritis and arthralgia.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a broad term that refers to inflammation of one or more joints, causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, with the most common being osteoarthritis, according to a research published in the StatPearls in 2023. Osteoarthritis involves the breakdown of cartilage in the joints, says orthopaedician Dr Yugal Karkhur.

A woman having knee pain due to arthritis
Arthritis referring to inflammation of one or more joints. Image courtesy: Freepik

What is arthralgia?

Arthralgia is a term used to describe joint pain without inflammation, and if it pain in several joints then it is called polyarthralgia. It can occur due to various reasons such as injury, overuse, or underlying medical conditions, but unlike arthritis, there is no swelling or redness present in the affected joint.

What are the differences between arthritis and arthralgia?

It is true that the connection between arthritis and arthralgia lies in their manifestation of joint pain. However, arthralgia can sometimes precede arthritis, says the expert. Here are some differences:

1. Symptoms

Arthritis: The symptoms of arthritis include joint pain, swelling, stiffness, reduced range of motion, warmth, and redness.
Arthralgia: Signs of arthralgia are joint pain without swelling, redness, or warmth.

2. Causes

Arthritis: It can be caused by various factors including injury, infection, autoimmune disorders, or wear and tear of joints.
Arthralgia: It is often caused by injury, overuse, strain, or underlying medical conditions like fibromyalgia or lupus. It can also be a side effect of cancer treatments, including Chemotherapy.

3. Diagnosis

Arthritis: It is diagnosed through physical examination, medical history, imaging tests (X-rays, MRI), and blood tests (e.g. rheumatoid factor for rheumatoid arthritis).
Arthralgia: Its diagnosis involves evaluating the patient’s medical history, conducting a physical examination, and ruling out other possible causes of joint pain.

4. Risk factors

Arthritis: Risk factors include age, genetics, obesity, previous joint injuries, and certain occupations involving repetitive joint movements.
Arthralgia: Risk factors include joint overuse, previous joint injuries, age, and underlying medical conditions.

A woman having joint pain due to arthritis
Arthralgia may lead to reduced mobility. Image courtesy: Freepik

5. Complications

Arthritis: It can lead to joint damage, deformity, disability, and reduced quality of life.
Arthralgia: If it is left untreated, it may lead to chronic joint pain and reduced mobility.

6. Treatment

Arthritis: Treatment involves medications (pain relievers, anti-inflammatories), physical therapy, lifestyle changes (exercise, weight management), assistive devices, and in severe cases, surgery (joint replacement).
Arthralgia: Treatment includes rest, ice or heat therapy, over-the-counter pain relievers, gentle exercises, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding activities that worsen joint pain.

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Can a person have arthritis and arthralgia at the same time?

Yes, a person can experience both arthritis and arthralgia simultaneously, says Dr Karkhur. Arthralgia may precede the development of arthritis or occur concurrently with it. In some cases, joint pain without inflammation may be an early symptom of arthritis, especially in conditions like rheumatoid arthritis where joint inflammation develops over time.

You must reach out to a doctor if you feel intense pain in joints after an injury. Sudden joint swelling or you inability to move your joint also means you need to call your doctor. Proper diagnosis and management by doctors are essential to address both the conditions effectively and improve the quality of life.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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