Arthrosis vs. Arthritis: What Are the Differences?

Arthrosis, also known as osteoarthritis, and arthritis are similar terms but have different meanings. Arthritis is a broad term that describes conditions causing joint inflammation. Arthrosis is a type of degenerative arthritis that causes the breakdown of the joints.

This article discusses arthrosis and arthritis, their similarities and differences, symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Healthcare professional checking the knee of senior person

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Common symptoms of arthrosis and other types of arthritis often overlap and include joint pain, stiffness, and difficulty moving around. However, different types of arthritis can present with additional symptoms.

Symptoms of Arthritis

Arthritis causes joint inflammation. Certain types of arthritis can also affect other structures in the body, such as the skin. In addition to pain and stiffness, arthritis symptoms can include:

  • Redness and swelling
  • Warm skin in the affected area
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Rash
  • Itching
  • Breathing issues

In addition to arthrosis (osteoarthritis), other types of arthritis include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body mistakenly attacks healthy tissues in the joints. This condition can also cause damage to other structures, such as internal organs.
  • Juvenile arthritis develops in childhood and causes joint inflammation.
  • Gout occurs when crystals form in joints due to too much uric acid in the body. Gout most often affects the big toe.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis causes arthritis in the spine.
  • Reactive arthritis can occur when certain infections cause inflammation in the joints.
  • Psoriatic arthritis causes scaly skin with white and red patches and joint issues.

Symptoms of Arthrosis

Arthrosis (osteoarthritis) is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 32.5 million people in the United States. This condition slowly destroys the cartilage that provides padding between bones in joints.

Symptoms include:

  • Achy pain in the affected joints
  • Swelling
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Stiffness
  • Feeling like the joint will "give out"

Joints Affected by Arthrosis

Arthrosis (osteoarthritis) most often affects joints in the fingers, hands, knees, and hips. It also commonly affects the spine.

Causes of Arthritis

Different types of arthritis have varying underlying causes.


Arthrosis is often called a wear-and-tear condition because it develops from repeated joint stress. Other factors that can contribute to arthrosis include:

  • Older age
  • Joint deformities
  • Family history of arthrosis
  • Previous injury to a joint
  • Joint surgery
  • Excess body weight


Other types of arthritis can have additional causes and risk factors, such as:

  • Smoking
  • Infection in a joint
  • Female gender
  • Genetic predisposition
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Jobs that involve repetitive motion

How Is Arthritis Diagnosed?

Diagnosing different types of arthritis, including arthrosis, begins with an examination by a healthcare provider. Your provider will ask questions about your symptoms—how long they have been present, what activities make them better or worse—and review your medical history.

Your provider will perform a physical exam to look for joint swelling or redness and evaluate how your joint moves.

Lab Tests

Lab tests often test blood, urine, and the fluid inside your joints to diagnose various types of arthritis. However, there are no specific lab tests for arthrosis (osteoarthritis).

Examples include:

  • Complete blood count (CBC): Arthritis can cause lower levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, or platelets in the blood.
  • Arthrocentesis: This test involves the insertion of a small needle into the joint to remove a sample of the joint fluid called synovial fluid. The fluid can be tested for blood cell counts, uric acid, bacteria or viruses, and the presence of crystals, which could indicate gout.
  • Complement tests: A complement is a group of proteins in the blood. Measuring levels of complement can help diagnose rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Rheumatoid factor: This protein is often elevated in people with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Urine tests: These tests can assess for signs of kidney disease, which often occurs with arthritis. Elevated levels of uric acid in urine can help diagnose gout.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR): ESR can be elevated with some types of arthritis that cause inflammation.
  • C-reactive protein: Levels of this protein are often elevated with inflammatory types of arthritis.
  • Antinuclear antibody: Specific antibodies are present in the blood for certain types of arthritis.

Imaging Tests

Various imaging tests assess joint damage caused by different types of arthritis. Imaging helps diagnose arthrosis and determines the condition's severity.

Imaging tests can include:

  • Radiographs (X-rays): These images examine bones and are particularly useful for diagnosing arthrosis as the cartilage between the bones in the affected joint breaks down and the space between the bones narrows. In severe cases, the bones might touch one another. X-rays can detect bone spurs, which can also develop from arthritis.
  • Computed tomography (CT scan): This test combines multiple X-ray images to form a three-dimensional image. CT scan provides a more detailed picture of bones in a joint.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): This procedure uses strong magnets to provide images of soft tissues in joints. MRI can show damage to these structures and swelling caused by arthritis.
  • Ultrasound: This test looks for synovial cysts that can develop in joints affected by arthrosis.

Treatment of Arthritis

Treatment for arthritis, such as arthrosis, can include medications, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery.


Various medications help treat symptoms of arthritis.

  • Pain medications: Medications such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) are available over-the-counter to reduce pain from arthritis. However, more severe symptoms often require prescription-strength pain relievers.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Arthritis causes inflammation in joints and sometimes other body parts. NSAIDs help decrease inflammation, reduce pain and improve joint movement. Examples include Aleve (naproxen), Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen), and Bayer (aspirin).
  • Corticosteroids: Steroids are stronger, short-term anti-inflammatory medications for reducing the symptoms of arthritis. Corticosteroids that treat arthrosis are injected directly into the affected joint.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These drugs treat inflammatory types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis. Rheumatrex (methotrexate) is one example of a DMARD.

Can Arthritis Be Prevented?

Unfortunately, there's no magic pill for preventing arthritis. Though you might have control over some risk factors, like smoking and maintaining a healthy weight, you can't control all of them, like genetics, injuries, and gender.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy can help relieve symptoms of arthritis and improve mobility and overall quality of life.

Physical therapy treatments can include:

  • Heat/ice
  • Ultrasound
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Manual therapy
  • Stretching
  • Massage
  • Gait training
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Use of assistive devices, such as a walker or cane


Some types of arthritis lead to severe joint damage, which may require surgery. It is especially common with advanced cases of arthrosis.

Procedures can include:

  • Arthroscopy: This procedure involves small incisions through which instruments and a tiny camera are inserted into the joint. Arthroscopy can fix small tears and clean up frayed surfaces in the joint.
  • Synovectomy: This surgery removes damaged parts of the synovium (lining in the joint).
  • Arthrodesis: Another name for this procedure is joint fusion. Plates, rods, and pins are inserted into affected joints to prevent them from moving. Over time, bones in the joint grow together, fusing the joint.
  • Joint replacement: Arthritic joints can be treated with partial or total joint replacement. A surgeon will remove damaged surfaces in the joint and put implants made of metal, ceramic, or plastic in their place.


Arthritis is an umbrella term for conditions that cause joint inflammation and present symptoms such as pain, limited movement, and difficulty doing daily tasks. Arthrosis, or osteoarthritis, is a specific kind of arthritis often caused by joint wear and tear over time. It can be caused by a previous injury to the joint, repetitive movements, or genetic predisposition. Your provider may recommend medications, physical therapy, and sometimes surgery to treat arthritis.

A Word From Verywell

If you suspect that you might have arthritis, see your healthcare provider. Early diagnosis can help slow the progression of the disease and help you maintain a better quality of life. Talk to a physical therapist about joint protection techniques and ways of performing daily tasks to reduce pressure on your affected joints.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Arthritis basics.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Osteoarthritis (OA).

  3. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Osteoarthritis basics.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis risk factors.

  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Arthritis diagnosis.

  6. Hospital for Special Surgery. Imaging for osteoarthritis: a common joint disorder.

  7. Arthritis Foundation. Medications for arthritis.

  8. Arthritis Foundation. Physical therapy for arthritis.

  9. Arthritis Foundation. Understand your joint surgery options.

By Aubrey Bailey, PT, DPT, CHT
Aubrey Bailey is a physical therapist and professor of anatomy and physiology with over a decade of experience providing in-person and online education for medical personnel and the general public, specializing in the areas of orthopedic injury, neurologic diseases, developmental disorders, and healthy living.