Arthritis vs. Arthralgia: What’s the Difference?

Are you having joint pain? Not sure if you have arthritis or arthralgia? Both conditions can cause joint pain and discomfort. But each condition also has distinctive characteristics that make them different. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, and diagnosis of both arthritis and arthralgia.

Arthralgia actual means joint pain. When you are experiencing arthralgia, you could have pain due to illness, injury, or even arthritis — pain without swelling.  Arthritis is an inflammation of the joint. The swelling that occurs during an arthritis flare-up can also cause arthralgia. When an insurance company is trying to classify whether you are experiencing arthralgia or arthritis, they will define them as either “pain” or “inflammation.”

Symptoms of Arthralgia and Arthritis

Both arthralgia and arthritis have many of the same symptoms. Symptoms of Arthralgia are joint stiffness, pain, redness, and joint immobility. Arthritis, on the other hand, has the same symptoms but also joint swelling and inflammation, loss of bone or cartilage that can cause terrible pain from bone on bone contact. Arthritis can also be a side effect of other illnesses like lupus, gout, and other infections. Arthralgia can be a side effect of chemotherapy. You may notice your symptoms getting worse when you are active like during a workout or swimming.

Symptoms of Arthralgia

  • Joint stiffness
  • Inability to use joint
  • Locking of joint
  • Tenderness

Symptoms of Arthritis

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Weakness
  • Stiffness
  • Decreased range of motion

Causes of Arthritis and Arthralgia

There are several causes of joint pain due to arthritis: Arthritis can be caused by a joint injury due to an accident or too much pressure on the joint like obesity, genetics, infections, and autoimmune disease.

Common Types of Arthritis

Osteoarthritis– pain caused by the deterioration of the cartilage between your bones. The joints rub together in what is commonly referred to as “bone on bone.” This can be very painful.

Rheumatoid Arthritis– an autoimmune disease that attacks the membranes around the joints.

Psoriatic Arthritis– Another type of autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the body in the connective tissues, ligaments, and skin. It is excruciating, as well.

Gout- inflammatory arthritis that occurs when your body has a build-up of too much uric acid. This causes inflammation of the joints (usually in the big toe) and can cause extreme pain. Flare-ups can occur when a person is stressed or eating an unhealthy diet.

Causes of Arthralgia

Arthralgia has several causes as well, but they can be more on a broad spectrum:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Strain and joint sprains
  • Joint dislocation
  • Tendonitis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Gout
  • Bone disease or cancer
  • Arthritis

Diagnosis and Treatment

According to the Arthritis Foundation, 31 million people have arthritis, but how do you determine whether you have arthritis or arthralgia?

Since joint pain can be caused by mild conditions like a joint sprain or a side effect of medication, you may not need immediate medical treatment. However, if you feel a sharp pain that will not go away or have been experiencing joint pain for an extended amount of time, you should talk to your doctor about it.

Diagnosing the cause of joint pain will involve a range of testing. Lab work like blood tests, urine analysis, and joint fluid tests. A joint fluid test is when they numb the area and then draw fluid out from the area you are experiencing pain. They may need to biopsy the affected joint as well.

C-reactive protein levels and Anti-CCP antibody tests will also help doctors diagnose your condition.


X-rays (using small amounts of radiation to make it easier to see the bone and bone loss and cartilage damage), CT Scans, MRI’s, and ultrasounds are ways that the doctor can take a look at your joints without surgery to find out what is the best treatment option for you.


When it comes to arthritis and arthralgia, it can be hard to tell which one you have. Arthralgia is defined as the joint pain itself. There are many different reasons for joint pain. Arthritis is a specific category of joint pain with many sub-categories of joint pain disorders. Knowing which one you are experiencing can help you when filing your disability claim.

Using an experienced disability law firm will help you protect yourself against insurance investigators. The Ortiz Disability Law Firm is based in Florida but represents long term disability claimants across the country. Receive a free consultation by calling (888) 321-8131 with no obligation. We can help you evaluate your claim to determine whether you qualify for Long-Term Disability Benefits and how to navigate the appeals process.


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