Osteoporosis VS Osteoarthritis: Learn the Difference in 5 Minutes or Less

by Shaunna Preston

If you’re like most Americans, odds are you aren’t an expert on medical terminology. However, knowing a few prefixes and suffixes can really come in handy- especially for breaking down what in the world your doctor is talking about when he gives you a diagnosis of “osteoarthritis” or “osteoporosis”. The two words sound quite similar, but they’re sort of like apples and oranges! They both involve the skeletal system (like apples and oranges are both fruits), but their symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments are NOT the same.

Having trouble knowing which one is which? A quick look at each word’s prefix, root word, and suffix makes telling the difference simple.

A Quick Lesson in Medical Terminology:


Prefix:  Osteo = bone   Root:  por= small opening that microscopic particles can pass through       Suffix: osis=abnormal or pathologic condition

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones are abnormally or extra porous.

This excessive porousness is caused by low bone density and a loss of bone tissue over time; it leaves bones vulnerable to breaks. Osteoporosis is known as a ‘silent disease’, because it can progress for years before its symptoms become obvious.


Prefix: Osteo= bone    Root: arthr= joint    Suffix: itis= inflammation

Osteoarthritis is inflammation where the bones meet (the joints). It is chronic and degenerative.

Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, it does not always occur on both sides of the body and it does not involve the immune system. Instead, it typically occurs in joints that have been damaged by repetitive overuse or by bearing too much weight. Both of these can cause cartilage in the joint to wear away. Bone begins to run painfully on bone without the cushion cartilage provides. Swelling and joint immobility follow.

In Conclusion:

Although some individuals do experience pain with osteoporosis, it is not generally considered to be a cause of chronic pain. Rather, people diagnosed with osteoporosis often do not experience any pain at all until a fracture occurs. In contrast, osteoarthritis may cause debilitating pain that interferes with a person’s daily life!

Want to Learn More or Join a Clinical Trial?

We currently don’t offer any clinical trials for osteoporosis treatments, but we are taking applications for participants in studies about osteoarthritis. If you’re interested in learning more about these studies, please visit us at https://injurycareresearch.com/for-participants/

If you are interested in learning more about osteoporosis or osteoarthritis, the Medline Plus website is a wonderful, easy-to-navigate resource: