Sore joints? What you need to know about arthritis

Feeling a bit stiff? Arthritis is an umbrella term for many forms of joint pain, and it’s not just limited to older people. Here’s what you need to know.

The word arthritis is a Greek term that describes inflammation of the joints, and it’s a condition that impacts around 3.6 million Australians.

While the chance of developing arthritis becomes greater as you get older, it’s a condition that can impact younger people, too.

According to Arthritis Australia, around two million people impacted by arthritis are of working age (15-54 years).

The main areas of the body that are affected by arthritis are the hands, feet, knees, hips and lower back, and it may present as pain, redness, swelling or stiffness.

Arthritis can have a significant impact on a person’s everyday functioning so, here, The House of Wellness resident GPs, the Drs Carr – Nick and his daughter Isabelle – offer some valuable insight into this painful and debilitating condition.

What is the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?

While there are many different forms of arthritis, the two most common are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, explains Dr Isabelle.

Rheumatoid arthritis

“Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and what that means is your immune cells get sent mixed messages and they go and attack your healthy cells by mistake,” Dr Isabelle says.

Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects more than one joint, and tends to be worse in the morning before easing up throughout the day.

Women are more likely than men to develop rheumatoid arthritis.


Osteoarthritis is the most common form, which Dr Isabelle describes as a degenerative bone disease.

“What that means is that long term use and wear and tear on the bones causes the degrading of the substance between them – the cartilage,” she says.

“It’s more common in women, older age groups, people with obesity, and people with a family history of osteoarthritis.”

What causes arthritis?

Did you ever get told off for cracking your knuckles as a kid?

Well don’t fret, cracking your knuckles won’t actually do any damage, according to Dr Nick.

“Cracking your knuckles is fine, it’s not going to give you arthritis,” Dr Nick says.

“A Californian researcher decided to crack his knuckles on one hand every day for 60 years and at the end of the 60 years he took x-rays of both, and there was no difference.”

What causes your arthritis depends on the type you have.

Rheumatoid is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the body, while osteoarthritis may be caused by a joint injury, a defect in joint cartilage, or abnormal joint structure.

Best ways to relieve arthritis

Dr Nick says that the best way to steer clear of arthritis is prevention.

“The most important things for prevention are keeping weight under control and keeping the joints mobile,” he says.

Arthritis has no cure, but certain treatments can help with pain and discomfort.

“Treatments include physical therapy, pain relief and when things are really bad, joint replacement,” says Dr Nick.

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Written by Kasey Markovic.