Rheumatoid Arthritis & Orthopaedic Joint Pain: What’s the Difference?

Is it orthopaedic joint pain or rheumatoid arthritis? See what Beebe Healthcare rheumatologist Lourdes Aponte, MD, and orthopaedic surgeon Gita Pillai, MD, have to say.

Dr. Lourdes Aponte on Rheumatoid Arthritis:

WHAT: Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease where the body attacks tissues lining the joints and causes severe pain and inflammation.

HOW: Inflammation may begin in smaller joints and be accompanied by stiffness and fatigue. It can affect the entire body and spread quickly.

CAUSE: It“s a combination of genetics and environment. For example, having a first-degree relative with Rheumatoid Arthritis or smoking increases the risk.

TREATMENT:  The most common forms are medications, including anti-inflammatories and anti-rheumatic treatments, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications.


Dr. Gita Pillai on Orthopaedic Joint Pain:

WHAT: Orthopaedic joint pain can be due to many different things—ligament tears, tissue and muscle injuries, fractures, or osteoarthritis.

HOW: These conditions can occur as a result of a sporting injury, trauma, or just by wear and tear of the joints over time.

CAUSE: No one process can cause orthopedic joint pain, but in general it is a mechanical issue caused by either an injury or wear of the joint over time.

TREATMENT: Treatment varies  Many problems can be treated with therapy, medications, and injections. Surgery may be an option if pain is not resolved with non-invasive treatment.

TAKEAWAY: While there’s no silver bullet treatment for any type of joint pain, there are effective methods for managing symptoms and living a full, active life. If you experience joint pain, start by consulting your primary care physician.



More than 50 million people in America suffer from autoimmune diseases, and more than 75% of those are women. Talk with your physician if you experience unexplained pain, fever, or fatigue.

This article appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of the Beacon.