10% off £30

Buy 1 Get 1 Half PriceSummer ShopOffersOffers HubBuy one get one 1/2 priceSave up to 1/2 PriceOnline Only up to 50% offOutletBuy 1 Get 1 FreeBetter than 1/2 price2 for £18 Mix & Match25% off1/2 PriceShort DatedVitamins & SupplementsVitamins & Supplements HubJoints, Aches & PainsGut HealthImmunityChildren's HealthEnergyHealthy HeartLow Mood & DepressionStress & AnxietyWeight ManagementExercise & RecoveryVitamins & Supplements Shop AllCBDShop all CBDCBD OilCBD CapsulesCBD SprayCBD GummiesCollagen & SilicaHair, Skin & NailsShop all Hair, Skin & NailsHair GrowthFunctional MushroomsVitaminsShop all VitaminsMultivitaminsVitamin AVitamin BVitamin CVitamin DVitamin EVitamin KVitamin DrinksMineralsShop all MineralsMagnesiumIronZincCalciumSeleniumChromiumSupplementsShop all SupplementsFibre SupplementsAcidophilus & Friendly BacteriaPeppermint OilGrapeseed ExtractLecithinCollagen & SilicaOmega & Fish OilsPlant Sourced SupplementsSuperfood SupplementsArnicaApple CiderRaspberry KetonesAloe VeraChondroitin & MSMCo Enzyme Q10Evening Primrose OilGarlicGinkgo BilobaGlucosamineGlucomannanSeaweed, Kelps and Aquaceuticals5 HTPDigestive EnzymesSaw palmettoCharcoalWomen's HealthShop all Women's HealthMenopauseMenstrual SupportUrinary Tract HealthPregnancy & ConceptionMen's HealthShop all Men's HealthProstate HealthChildren's HealthConditionShop all ConditionCholesterolAllergy & Hay Fever CareAnxiety SupportBone & Muscle HealthMuscle Support & Joint PainBrain & Memory SupportWomen's HealthMen's HealthChildren's HealthCold & Immune SupportFatigueDigestive HealthHair, Skin & NailsHeart & CirculationLiver CareMood SupportSexual HealthSleep & RelaxationStress ReliefVisionHerbal & Licensed RemediesShop all Herbal & Licensed RemediesRescue RemedyAshwagandhaMilk ThistleGinseng & GuaranaHomeopathic & Flower RemediesShop all Homeopathic & Flower RemediesRescue RemedyTissue SaltsFlower RemediesHomeopathic RemediesAt-Home TestsVegan Vitamins & SupplementsCBD Homeopathic Buy one get one 1/2 priceSave up to 1/2 PriceOnline Only up to 50% offHolland & BarrettVitabioticsSolgarNew NordicBioglanBetterYouNatures AidGrass & Co.Nature's WayH&B ExpertDairy FreeGluten FreeSesame Seed FreeCelery FreeCereal FreeCrustaceans FreeEgg FreeFish FreeKiwi FreeLupin FreeNew inFood & DrinkFood & Drink HubImmunityExercise & RecoveryGut HealthEnergyJoints, Aches & PainsWeight ManagementDental HealthFood & Drink Shop AllDried Fruit, Nuts & SeedsShop all Dried Fruit, Nuts & SeedsNutsDried FruitSeedsMixesHoney, Jams & SpreadsShop all Honey, Jams & SpreadsManuka HoneyHoneyNut ButtersJams & ChutneysSpreadsPateSuperfoodsShop all SuperfoodsSuperfood PowdersMaca PowderGoji BerriesBaobabMoringa PowderFlaxseedSpirulinaChia SeedsDrinks & JuicesShop all Drinks & JuicesNatural Energy DrinksKombuchaJuicesSoft DrinksWaterProtein ShakesAlcohol Free DrinksTeas, Coffee & Hot BeveragesShop all Teas, Coffee & Hot BeveragesCoffee & Coffee SubstitutesMushroom DrinksTeasSuperfood TeasMatcha & Green TeaSleep & RelaxationDairy AlternativesShop all Dairy AlternativesOat, Rice & Hemp DrinksSoya DrinksNut DrinksCoconut DrinksSnacksShop all SnacksProtein BarsLow Calorie SnacksChocolate, Cakes & BiscuitsCrisps & ChipsSavoury SnacksSweet SnacksSnack BarsFlapjacksPopcornFood CupboardShop all Food CupboardHoney, Jams & SpreadsBreakfast CerealsSuperfoodsApple Cider VinegarCondiments & SaucesTinned FoodsRice, Pasta, Pulses & GrainsBreakfast CerealsShop all Breakfast CerealsCereals, Bran & FlakesGranolaMuesliOats & PorridgeBreakfast BarsVegan FoodCookingShop all CookingCooking IngredientsApple Cider VinegarCondiments & SaucesSoya & Meat AlternativeSoup & Ready MealsRice, Pasta, Pulses & GrainsHerbs, Spices & SeasoningGravy & StockHome BakingShop all Home BakingBaking MixesBreadFlourSweeteners & Sugar AlternativesEgg SubstitutesNutritionally Complete FoodBuy one get one 1/2 priceSave up to 1/2 PriceOnline Only up to 50% offHolland & BarrettNaturyaGrenadeHeath & HeatherPukkaNakdMeridianTwiningsHuelBionaGluten FreeDairy FreeWheat FreeEgg FreeMilk FreeSugar FreeSoya FreeCelery FreeFish FreeMustard FreeNew inSports NutritionSports Nutrition HubExercise & RecoveryEnergyWeight ManagementLow Mood & DepressionStress & AnxietySports Nutrition Shop AllProteinShop all ProteinWhey ProteinClear ProteinMass GainersVegan ProteinDiet ProteinCaseinSports SupplementsShop all Sports SupplementsTestosteroneElectrolytesEnergy GelsSports CollagenPre Workout & EnergyShop all Pre Workout & EnergyPre WorkoutCaffeine-free-pre-workoutAmino Energy PowdersBars, Drinks & SnacksShop all Bars, Drinks & SnacksEnergy BarsProtein BarsProtein ShakesProtein SnacksNutritionally Complete FoodMeal Replacement ShakesIntra WorkoutKetoPost WorkoutAmino AcidsShop all Amino AcidsAmino Energy PowdersBCAAL-LysineGlutamineCarnitineArginineCreatineShop all CreatineCreatine PowderCreatine CapsulesVegan Sports NutritionShop all Vegan Sports NutritionVegan ProteinVegan Protein BarsVegan Pre Workout & EnergyVegan Amino AcidsVegan CreatineSports AccessoriesShop all Sports AccessoriesBottles & ShakersFitness EquipmentFitness GoalShop all Fitness GoalRecoveryMuscle & StrengthLean MuscleEnergy & EnduranceDiet & Weight LossSave up to 1/2 PriceBuy one get one 1/2 price25% offOptimum NutritionPE NutritionUSNGrenadeApplied NutritionPhDHuelSiSFoodspringYfoodDairy FreeGluten FreeSugar FreeSoya FreePalm Oil FreeCelery FreeCereal FreeCrustaceans FreeEgg FreeFish FreeNew inBeautyBeauty HubSkin Health - by skin concernDental HealthWomen's Health - Cycles & MenstruationSexual HealthWomen's Health - PregnancyJoints, Aches & PainsChildren's HealthExercise & RecoveryLow Mood & DepressionStress & AnxietyNatural Beauty Shop AllAromatherapy & HomeShop all Aromatherapy & HomePure Essential OilsBlended Essential OilsBase & Carrier OilsHolisticSkincareShop all SkincarePremium SkincareFace CareBody CareSun CareTanning & BronzingEye CareLip CareFoot CareHand & Nail CareSkin AilmentsSkin OilsCBD BeautySun CareShop all Sun CareSun Lotion SPFMineral Sun CareFace SPFAfter SunHair Skin & NailsWashing & BathingShop all Washing & BathingShampoo & ConditionerBathing AccessoriesShower Gel & Body WashDeodorantDentalHand WashSoapBath Soak & OilBody ScrubBath Bombs & SaltsFeminine CareIncontinence SupportHair CareShop all Hair CareShampoo & ConditionerHair ColouringHair MasksHair Oil & SerumHair Spray, Gel & MousseHair AccessoriesMother & BabyShop all Mother & BabyBaby Skincare & ToiletriesElectrical WellnessSexual WellnessBuy one get one 1/2 priceSave up to 1/2 PriceOnline Only up to 50% offDr OrganicFaith in NatureWeledaNaturtintTisserandMiaromaSukinQ+AEthiqueSo EcoAlcohol FreeParfum FreeParaben FreeSLS FreePalm Oil FreeGluten FreeCelery FreeCereal FreeCrustaceans FreeEgg FreeNew inCBDWeight ManagementWeight Management HubExercise & RecoveryWeight ManagementEnergyHealthy HeartWeight Management Shop AllFat Burners, Binders & Appetite SuppressantsShop all Fat Burners, Binders & Appetite SuppressantsFat BurnersFat BindersAppetite SuppressantsSlimming TabletsShakes & Weight Management ShotsShop all Shakes & Weight Management ShotsMeal Replacement ShakesDiet ProteinDiet Food & DrinkShop all Diet Food & DrinkDiet FoodLow Calorie SnacksSlimming TeaExercise SupportShop all Exercise SupportFitness EquipmentMeal Replacement ShakesDiet ProteinProtein BarsBuy one get one 1/2 priceSave up to 1/2 PriceOnline Only up to 50% offGrenadeOptimum NutritionHolland & BarrettUSNPulsinPhDEat WaterNew NordicSlimExpertApplied NutritionDairy FreeGluten FreeSugar FreeWheat FreeNew inVeganHealth & WellnessShop all Health & WellnessGut HealthSkin Health - by skin concernEnergyWomen's Health - Menopause & PerimenopauseExercise & RecoveryWomen's Health - Hormonal HealthJoints, Aches & PainsImmunitySleep & RelaxationLow Mood & DepressionJoints Bones & MusclesGut HealthHair Skin & NailsStress AnxietySleep & RelaxationBuy one get one 1/2 priceSave up to 1/2 PriceOnline Only up to 50% offHolland & BarrettDr OrganicNaturtintVitabioticsSolgarOptimum NutritionWeledaNew NordicEthiqueWildDairy FreeGluten FreeAlcohol FreeSugar FreeParaben FreeParfum FreeSLS FreeWheat FreeSoya FreeSesame Seed FreeNew inShop for your WellnessWomen's HealthMenstrual HealthMenopauseSkincareJoints, Bones & MusclesGut HealthHair, Skin & NailsImmunitySleep & RelaxationFood & DietChildren's HealthStress ReliefHealthy HeartEnergyLow Mood & DepressionConcentration & AlertnessEye HealthSexual HealthLearn about WellnessWomen's HealthPeriods & Cycle HealthMenopauseJoints, Bones & MusclesImmunityGut HealthFood & DietSports & FitnessSleep & RelaxationHair Skin & NailsArticlesAll articlesHealthFood & nutritionGut healthImmunityJoints, bones & musclesWomen's healthWellnessHair & skinMental wellbeingSeasonalSleep & relaxationSports nutritionRecipesAll recipesGluten freeLow sugarVeganDairy freePodcast

What is rheumatism? Is it different to arthritis?

Affecting over 10 million people in the UK, how much do you know about arthritis? Learn about rheumatism and other joint conditions so you know the signs.

People often say rheumatism when they’re talking about rheumatoid arthritis, or general aches and pains in their joints.

The term rheumatism is an old-fashioned word used to describe problems that affect the joints and connective tissues.

Whereas arthritis can refer to diseases that affect the joints - such as osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), gout, and ankylosing spondylitis.

In this article we’ll talk you through everything you need to know in order to discover the difference between rheumatism and arthritis once and for all.

What is rheumatism?

The word rheumatism derives from the late Latin word, rheumatismus which meant “to suffer from a flux”. Today rheumatism is more likely to explain aches and pains in the joints, or perhaps more accurately, rheumatoid arthritis.

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

According to the NHS, rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that usually affects the hands, feet and wrists by causing pain, swelling and stiffness in the joints.1  

It’s thought that with this condition there will be periods where symptoms may become worse. These periods are known as flares or flare-ups.

Flares can be difficult to predict but are treatable and can minimise or prevent long-term injury to joints.2

What is arthritis?

The word “arthritis” means ‘inflammation in the joints”.

Inflammation may be a difficult thing to imagine or describe, but UK charity Arthritis Action say that inflammation is part of the body’s normal healing process, just like the healing of a cut or a bruise.3

A normal joint is the connection between 2 bones. The ends of the bones are covered by a layer of cartilage which acts as a shock absorber to protect the bones form damage, which is the area which would commonly be affected first.4

More than 10 million people in the UK have arthritis, or other, similar conditions that affect the joints. It can affect people of all ages, including children.

What causes arthritis?

There are more than 200 types of arthritis, but the two most common are OA and RA. OA usually develops over time and can affect several different joints. RA is an inflammatory auto-immune disease, mainly affecting joints and tendons.

Experts do not yet know exactly what causes arthritis, but some forms run in families. Your lifestyle can also affect your risk of developing the condition.

Overuse or injury of a particular joint means it’s at greater risk of future problems, so athletes or those who have jobs with repetitive actions, like cleaners, are more at risk.

Carrying extra weight adds additional pressure on weight-bearing joints in your back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet.


Osteoarthritis, or OA as previously mentioned is the most common type of arthritis, affecting nearly 9 million people in the UK.

It’s more common in people in their 40’s or older, and it's more common for women, particularly after the menopause and people with a family history of the condition.5

Initially, OA affects the flat cartilage lining of the joint. This will make movement more difficult than usual, which will then lead to pain and stiffness.

Once the cartilage lining begins to roughen and thin out, the tendons and ligaments have to work harder.

In more severe circumstances, a loss of cartilage can lead to bone rubbing on bone, altering the shape of the joint and forcing the bones out of their normal position.

The joints that are most commonly affected with the symptoms of rheumatism are:

  • Hands
  • Spine
  • Knees
  • Hips

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA affects more than 400,000 people in the UK, and women are three times more likely to be affected than men.

It most commonly targets people between 40 and 50 years old. It affects the body's immune system and targets affected joints, which will lead to pain and swelling. 

The outer covering of the joint known as the synovium is the first place affected. This can then spread across the joint, leading to further swelling and a change in the joint's shape. This may cause the bone and cartilage to break down.

People with rheumatoid arthritis can also develop problems with other tissues and organs in their body.

Common arthritis symptoms

In OA, cartilage protecting the end of bones is worn away, so the bare bones rub together, making joints stiff, painful, and creaky.

Any joint can be affected but the knees, hips, and hand joints are most affected because they do a lot of work.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are slightly different. In RA, an inflamed joint looks swollen and red, and may feel warm and tender. RA usually starts in the wrists, hands or feet, but can spread to other joints in your body.

The best arthritis treatment

At the moment, there is no cure for arthritis, so treatment is all about managing your pain.

Physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic, and massage all help keep the joints working. One of the most common drug treatments is NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) but talk to your GP about other medication available for your type of arthritis.

You can try taking a glucosamine supplement, as glucosamine is a major part of the protein that forms cartilage in joints.

Natural anti-inflammatory remedies include ginger, extract of green-lipped muscle, bromelain, curcumin, and Devil’s Claw. Garlic increases blood flow to affected joints, which helps calm down joint inflammation.

Omega-3 essential fatty acids, found in oily fish such as salmon or a supplement, have anti-inflammatory effects, and may also improve joint mobility.

Magnesium may be useful, as it helps the body absorb calcium which healthy bones depend upon. Green veggies, nuts and whole grains are all rich sources of magnesium, or try taking a magnesium supplement.

Being active is essential for both preventing and improving arthritis symptoms. Studies have found people who exercise regularly, even something as simple as going for a walk, report less joint pain than people who do no exercise.

Can rheumatoid arthritis be cured?

While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, treatments can help reduce the inflammation the joints, relieve pain and in some cases slow down or prevent the damage to joints. Which may help you be more active.6

Treatments will usually involve talking to your GP and in some cases, different arthritis specialists who can support you into finding suitable medicines, making lifestyle changes, supportive treatments and in some cases surgery.7

Can you have osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis at the same time?

It is possible to get two different types of arthritis. This is known as secondary arthritis, which means that arthritis may have occurred from an injury to the joint or a medical condition.

The medical condition can be RA because of the damage due to joint damage, however it is not always the case that somebody with OA will develop RA as a result.8

Also, it is worth keeping in mind that both of these conditions can be difficult to diagnose separately and as a result its more likely that any diagnosis would suggest one or the other rather than deal with them separately.

What are the 4 stages of rheumatoid arthritis?

While there may be no specific cure for RA, early treatment to prevent further problems can be key. You can begin to recognise these symptoms at the early stages by looking out for the following:9

  1. In the early stages of RA you may not have many symptoms except for stiffness in the early hours of the morning, usually in the hands and feet, or sometimes your knees.

You may find that the stiffness gets better with movement, which is a good way of differentiating it from osteoarthritis.

  1. In many RA cases, you will find that you move into the second stage without diagnosis. At this stage you will begin to notice swelling and inflammation. This is because your body creates antibodies that may cause your joints to swell up.

You may also notice that you develop lumps on the elbows known as rheumatoid nodules.

  1. In the third, more severe phase – at this point blood tests and x-rays get less relevant as the symptoms will become more visible.

Your fingers may become bent and in some cases fingers can become crooked. This means that your joints may press on nerves and begin to cause nerve damage as a result.

  1. In many rare cases, and without any treatment the joints will ware away and will eventually fuse. However, it’s very unlikely that it will get to this point.

What are usually the first signs of rheumatoid arthritis?

The NHS explains that the main symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are:10

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Inflammation in other parts of the body

These symptoms may develop gradually over a number of weeks, but in some instances they can progress quickly over a matter of days.

How serious is rheumatoid arthritis?

As you may have established by now, without treatment rheumatoid arthritis can get very serious quite quickly. Particularly if you ignore early symptoms.

There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, each affecting joints in different ways and its not something you should ignore. These can differ in severity, but it's something you should be taking seriously if you notice any of the early signs described within this article.

While there may not be a cure for rheumatoid arthritis there are treatments that can help slow it down.

For Osteoarthritis treatments will include lifestyle changes, medicines and in more serious cases, surgery.

Rheumatoid arthritis treatment will aim to slow the progress of the condition and reduce any joint inflammation you might experience, which may help prevent joint damage.

Further information, help and support

UK arthritis charity, Versus Arthritis provides help and support for people in the UK with arthritis. They have a free helpline you can call for further information on 0800 5200 520, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.

You may also wish to look up your local arthritis services for further assistance.

  • Visa
  • MasterCard
  • PayPal
  • AmericanExpress
  • ApplePay
  • ClearPay
  • AliPay
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
Copyright © Holland & Barrett Retail Limited, 2024. All rights reserved. hollandandbarrett.com is a trading name of Holland & Barrett Retail Limited,. Registered office: Samuel Ryder House, Barling Way, Nuneaton, Warwickshire CV10 7RH. Registered in England: company no. 2758955. Registered VAT no. 211727395.