Skip to main content

Arthritis Doesn’t Hurt. 

Get ready for a mind-blowing revelation that might make you question everything you know about arthritis. If you think arthritis is the root cause of all things evil and painful, you might want to stop reading now. Seriously, because the next line is something you won’t be able to forget. Ready?

Arthritis is your wrinkles on the inside… It is normal and everyone gets it. 

Arthritis is a term that often conjures images of pain, stiffness, and discomfort. However, when it comes to osteoarthritis, the most prevalent form of arthritis, the truth might surprise you—arthritis itself doesn’t hurt. In this blog, we’ll delve into the intricacies of osteoarthritis, explore the differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, and uncover the real culprits behind the pain.

Let’s dive in.

Understanding Arthritis Types: Rheumatoid vs Osteoarthritis

Arthritis is an umbrella term encompassing various conditions that involve inflammation of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are two distinct types with different causes and effects.

Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • Autoimmune disorder
  • Affects multiple joints
  • Inflammatory response damages joint lining

Osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis):

  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Primarily affects weight-bearing joints
  • Cartilage breakdown leads to “bone-on-bone” contact

While both conditions can have pain associated with them, our focus shifts to osteoarthritis, where the pain is not a direct result of the joint itself.

The Real Pain Sources

Understanding the source of pain in osteoarthritis involves unraveling the complexities of the human body’s neuroanatomy. Contrary to common belief, the joint surface itself lacks pain sensors. So, if the joint isn’t causing the pain, what is?

Free Nerve Endings: The Pain Messengers

Free nerve endings, scattered throughout our bodies, act as pain receptors. In the context of osteoarthritis, these nerve endings play a crucial role in signaling pain. However, they are not present on the articular cartilage (the part of the joint that breaks down).


So, what structures send pain signals that feel like my arthritis?

  1. Muscles: Weakness, imbalance, or overuse can strain muscles, contributing to pain. Strengthening exercises and proper body mechanics play a pivotal role in managing muscle-related pain.
  2. Meniscus, Fat Pad, Capsule: Inflammation or damage to these structures can trigger pain signals.
  3. Spine: the spine houses the nerves that innervate your joints. If you have had a previous injury that impacted your back, it may have caused dysfunction in your back that can lead to arthritis-like pain.
  4. Sensitized nerve: When nerves get compressed from prolonged tight muscles, it can result in nerves getting irritated resulting in pain that may feel like it is coming from your joint.

What’s Really Causing Your Osteoarthritis Pain?

  1. Weakness: When muscles are weak, they will become tight to protect the joint. This tightness results in compression of the nerves and blood vessels in the muscle resulting in pain.  Strengthening exercises can be a game-changer. As muscles get stronger, they will become looser which results in less pain!
  2. Poor Body Mechanics: Incorrect body movements can contribute to joint wear and tear. Educating yourself on proper posture and movement patterns can make a significant difference.
  3. Overuse: Repetitive stress on joints, often seen in occupations or activities that involve frequent joint movement, can exacerbate pain symptoms.
  4. Referral from Other Areas: Pain signals can be referred from neighboring areas like the low back or hips, creating a complex web of discomfort.

Active vs Passive Treatments For Arthritis Pain

The questions you need to begin to ask yourself is “Are most of the treatments I have received for my arthritis pain passive or active?”

  • Passive: medication, injections, acupuncture, dry needling, manipulation, surgery
  • Active: strengthening and mobility exercises, physiotherapy assessment, education specific to your condition

If your arthritis treatments haven’t given lasting relief, don’t worry! Switching from passive to active treatments can make a difference. If you’re tired of arthritis pain and want a solution, contact your local physiotherapist—finding a solution is possible.

Tyler Waterway

Author Tyler Waterway

More posts by Tyler Waterway

Leave a Reply