What Is the Difference Between Arthritis and Arthralgia?

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Arthritis and arthralgia are terms that are often confused with one another. The main difference between arthralgia and arthritis is that one is a symptom and the other is a condition. Arthralgia is a symptom that refers to joint pain, and arthritis is a type of medical condition that causes inflammation and pain in the joints.

Woman massaging painful wrist


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Symptoms 

Arthralgia is a term for joint pain and stiffness. It can be a symptom of different conditions, including arthritis. Arthritis is a condition that affects the joints and has many symptoms. 

The most common symptoms of arthritis are:

  • Pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints
  • Problems moving the joints
  • Warm or red skin around the joints  

Causes

Since arthralgia is a symptom, it indicates a person may have a medical condition that requires additional testing before a doctor can determine the cause.  

Some of the common causes of arthralgia include:  

  • Overuse or wear and tear of the joints 
  • Injuries 
  • Sprains 
  • Gout
  • Tendonitis 
  • Infectious diseases 

Arthritis is not a single disease because there are more than 100 different types, so there are many causes. Sometimes it is not possible to determine the exact cause of your arthritis.  

Some of the common causes of arthritis include:

Some different types of arthritis are:

Diagnosis

Arthralgia is a symptom, so you should discuss it with your doctor during the diagnosis process. Arthritis is a medical condition, but there are many types. It may take time to diagnose the specific type of arthritis you have. 

There is no one test that can provide a definitive diagnosis for all types of arthritis. You may need to have multiple tests to determine the cause of your joint pain.

Your doctor will start the diagnosis process by learning more about your symptoms and doing a physical exam. Your doctor will look for redness, warmth, fluid, and pain in the joints or problems moving the joints. You will also discuss your medical history.

Imaging Tests

You may need different types of imaging tests to diagnose arthritis. The tests may include X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), arthroscopy, or ultrasound scans of your joints.

Lab Work

Your doctor may order different laboratory tests to determine if you have arthritis. Usually, more than one test is necessary to figure out the condition. 

Common lab tests for arthritis include:

Treatment

If you have joint pain that is not caused by arthritis, then your treatment may include rest and exercise. You may also want to take warm baths and have massages. Your doctor may recommend taking anti-inflammatory medications for the pain.

If you have arthritis, the treatment plan will vary based on the type of condition you have and the severity. You may need to make lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise or doing physical theapy.

Lifestyle changes for arthritis may include:

  • Diet changes 
  • Strength training
  • Low-impact aerobic exercises
  • Flexibility exercises
  • Water therapy
  • Using heat or ice
  • Massages 
  • Wearing orthotics or splints 
  • Lowering stress 
  • Avoiding alcohol and smoking 
  • Losing weight 

Other treatment options for arthritis are:

A Word From Verywell

When you notice new or unusual symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor right away and be upfront about what you are experiencing. If you have arthralgia or joint pain, it can be a symptom of arthritis.  

The diagnosis process for arthritis can take time, so it is important to stay patient. There are many types of arthritis, and they have similar symptoms. You may want to reach out to friends and family for support as you wait for results from your imaging and laboratory tests. 

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Article Sources
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  1. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Arthralgia.  

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis types. Updated February 20, 2019.

  3. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Arthritis. Updated December 22, 2020.

  4. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Arthritis diagnosis