What Are The Differences Between RA and MS? 

 March 6, 2024

By  Linda Rook


When you have an autoimmune disease, it's caused by your healthy body's immune system attacking your tissues. 

Multiple sclerosis, or MS; is a disease that attacks the central nervous system. Rheumatoid arthritis or RA is a disease that attacks the cells in the joints and organs.

The immune system supports and protects against infections and wrongly turns against your organ's tissue.  Over fifteen years, research has been done to try and find a cure. But to date, there's been no result.

But there has been a study found that treatment methods alleviated the symptoms by about seventy per cent in people that had MS.  But there’s a problem; because the treatment could cause other serious diseases also side effects.

Multiple Sclerosis.

MS has been found to have a progressive immune disorder which causes your body to mistakenly attack the central nervous system such as your brain, spinal cord or optic nerve.

Multiple sclerosis causes your central nervous system or CNS to become inflamed. The inflammation over time damages your nerves;  over time the protective layer (called myelin) gets worn away,  that insulates the nerve's fibres and enables the transmission of the central nervous signals.

After a while, the myelin could be severely damaged by interrupting the signal and could stop altogether. When the disease stops any signal from going through, this results in various debilitating symptoms.

MS of the brain

Indirect Joint Pain.

When you have multiple sclerosis, your nerves and musculoskeletal will get damaged. Most people with this disease also suffer from aching joints or/and pains that could be all over the body. Therefore results in severe pain, leaving you with various symptoms such as:

Tingling and Numbness.
  • Fatigue.
  • Stiff Muscles.
  • Loss of balance when you walk or stand.
  • Sensation or tingling or numbness feeling.
  • speech may become impaired
  • sexual Disfunction.

Multiple sclerosis doesn't affect the joints directly, as in rheumatoid arthritis, but it affects other body parts.

For example:

  • You may lose energy, become weak, and your muscles will start to get weak.
  • Your limbs become stiff, and you might lose your balance. When you walk, you will have complex movements.
  • The weak posture could result in pain in the lower back where you put pressure.
  • In the latter days, you could have frequent spasms of the muscles, which affects mobility and the flexibility that supports your joints.

With multiple sclerosis you may have a secondary pain in the joints that could cause the pain becoming more severe around your hips, back, and legs.  As well as having no energy, also your posture, flexibility and balance will deteriorate. 

Multiple Sclerosis -  joint pain management.

For people with multiple sclerosis the pains they experience differ from person to person. The remedies that you could do to reduce this pain are therapy and your medication.

The following list is some home remedies to help improve the symptoms of joint and muscle pains.

  • keeping up with exercises that are low-impact which include walking, swimming and other light exercises. 
  • Or you could see a physical therapy. The physio can help with stretch exercises at home to help you walk better.
  • if you are overweight it would help if you can lose the excess weight.
  • Stretch you muscles by going to yoga classes.
  • You should stop smoking.
  • Sit comfortable with your posture straight.
  • When you have a pain the best thing is to put a heat pack on the affected area, this helps the blood flowing again.
  • A cold pack is to help with the swelling and inflammation, but always cover the ice pack with a towel never put the pack on skin.
heat packs


When you have MS your nerves are overstimulated, which means that the medication you will be having helps to treat the following.

Antiepileptic drugs or AEDs –

Tricyclic antidepressants -

Anti-spasticity drugs -

and Opioids -



Rheumatoid arthritis is an incurable inflammatory and autoimmune disease. RA causes pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints.

This disease causes your immune system to attack your healthy cells in the body by mistake. As a result, it causes painful swelling or inflammation in the part of the affected body.

The joint lining surrounds a particular joint called 'the synovium'; this joint becomes inflamed and causes damage to the joint's tissue. Therefore, the damaged tissue causes chronic or long-lasting pain.

The main joints that this disease attacks are mainly the hands, feet and wrists. It also attacks more than one joint. You may have weeks or months of the disease worsening, called a flare-up (or flares). Or you could have weeks or months of no pain; this is called remission.

Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect tissues throughout your body which could cause problems in your organs like your lungs, heart and even eyes.

Depending on how bad your pains, stiffness, and joint damage, your daily tasks may become difficult to manage or take longer doing the task.

Indirect joint pain.

The root cause of rheumatoid arthritis is inflammation; they can also have joint pain without the swelling and experience other pains like a dull ache.

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

weight loss
  • Pain or an ache in more than one joint.
  • Stiff joints could be in more than one of your joints.
  • Tender and swelling also in more than one joint.
  • The symptoms occur on both sides of the body, for example, both hands.
  • Weight Loss.
  • Fever or Weak.

Joint Pain Management.

The symptoms usually develop over time, but they can progress quickly in some cases it could be over a couple of days. The Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms are swelling, pain and stiffness of the joint, and it can develop inflammation in other parts of the body.

You will find that the symptoms vary from person to person; also, they could come and go. However,  you will experience flares more as the disease deteriorates and become worse.

There are some natural remedies that can help relieve your pains and stiffness.  But before you do anything, you should see your doctor.

Some remedies that can help you are:

  • Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that uses very thin needles put into specific points on the body. The method though does not work straight away and you may need twenty or so sessions.  I tried this but it got too expensive as you should go and see a certified acupuncturist.
  • Control automatic responses for your heart rate and blood pressure, this is done with a sensor on your body which sends information to a monitor.
  • A massage is also natural approach to reduce the pain.  but again you should see a certified massage therapist. Also see you doctor first.
  • Meditation helps you focus on you're breathing.  When you meditate your mind may wander but when this happens you need to return to your breathing.


Other pain managements you could do to help are:

  • You should try and do exercises each day, I know it is difficult when you are already in pain, but you should keep moving.  If you do not your joints will worsen.  The best is the same as MS walking, swimming, or aerobics so that your heart gets moving. But with RA you could also do strength training to keep your muscles at your joints strong.
  • Heat or ice packs, heat packs for your pain, this relaxes the muscles and opens the blood vessels. A cold pack is for your swelling and inflammation.


 Medication helps people with Rheumatoid Arthritis to:
bone and joints

  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Relieves the pain.
  • The damage to the joints are slowed down.
  • increase the mobility.
  • keeping active a bit longer.

With all arthritic diseases, Rheumatoid arthritis is incurable. Although medicine, lifestyle changes, supportive treatment and surgery can reduce the risk of damaging your joints and limits the condition.

Medicines are available to stop the Rheumatoid arthritis from getting worse.  There are two types both called Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drug DMARDs one is by tables or DMARDs as biological treatment.

Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drug.

Your doctor may prescribe you a mixture of DMARDs tablets when you are diagnosed for the first time. The tablets can slow down the progression.

The DMARDs block the effects of chemicals released when the immune system attacks your joints. That otherwise damages your bones, tendons, ligaments and cartilage and more.

DMARDs that could be used for rheumatoid arthritis are as follows:

  • Methotrexate.
  • Leflunomide.
  • Hydroxychloroquine.
  • Sulfasalazine.
  • These are just a few...
The DMARDs drugs
Hair Loss

But with all medicines, there are side effects such as:

  • Feeling sick.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Sore mouth.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Headaches.
  • Even loss of hair.
  • And you may have problems with your liver and blood cells. With this one you may have regular blood tests

The doctor will prescribe you medication such as painkillers by tablet or gel for your pain, or steroids to reduce the stiffness and inflammation, this could be an injection into the muscle, directly into the joint or tablet form.  

Unfortunately, they will not stop the disease from getting worse in time.

Multiple Sclerosis vs Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Both of these diseases have similar progression and are the most disabling autoimmune disease. The similarities of the diseases are called 'siblings'.

The similarities include:

  • The damage which causes chronic inflammation, and developed by an overactive immune system.
  • Both MS and RA have tissue damage which causes dysfunction to the muscles that affect you walking.
  • They are both similar in symptoms, for example, both make you feel fatigued and weak and mobility, in different ways.
  • Treatment like medication is also similar for both, including medicine to help reduce pain and inflammation and help suppress the immune system.
  • The last one is the progression in rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, both can worsen over time. These days, with new and improved treatments, the progression occurs only if it goes untreated.

The differences

The only difference is where the disease affects the body. For example, in Rheumatoid arthritis, the joints become affected, whereas, in Multiple Sclerosis, the affected area is the central nervous system, for example, the brain and spinal cord.

The symptoms.

The symptoms can also be different such as in multiple sclerosis you may develop:

  • Problems with your vision.
  • Feeling numbness and tingling.
  • You may begin to get muscle spasms.
  • Your muscles become stiff and weak.
  • You may even have some problems with learning, thinking, or even planning.
  • Could have sexual issues.
  • Bladder and bowel will become dysfunctional.
  • And around the torso, you may feel a tight squeezing feeling.
Tingling feeling

The symptoms in rheumatoid arthritis could be:

  • Pain in more than one joint.
  • The affected joint will become stiff, swollen and tender.
  • The condition could be simultaneously, which means on both sides.
  • Feeling of feverish and unexplainable weight loss.
  • Irreversible joint damage and feeling fatigued.


Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease that attacks the brain, central nervous system, and spinal cord.  You have protective myelin, which gets damaged and interferes with the nerve impulses. You may get many symptoms that include problems with your vision, the movement of your arms or legs, also your balance or the sensation.

Unfortunately, it is a lifelong condition that could cause severe disability, and may need help around the home.  Some common symptoms you could get with multiple sclerosis are fatigue, problems with bladder and bowel motions, depression and much more.

But if you develop rheumatoid arthritis, it can attack you immune system and joints. As well as inflammation of which can affect your eyes, lungs and heart. Untreated inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis could cause cardiovascular disease and certain cancer, but this can decrease ones you begin the treatment.

 You can help yourself by doing some home remedies like keeping your weight down, doing exercises so that you don’t stiffen up; if you don’t keep up with activities, you may develop lung problems, shortness of breath as you climb the stairs, or you may have a cough which doesn’t go away.

I hope this article has helped you. Please subscribe to my website, and I will keep you updated on new blogs. Also, if you need to know anything about arthritis, please go to my contact page and leave a message, and I will get back to you.

In the meantime, if this post is informative, I’d be very grateful if you’d help your friends or family if they have a similar condition to tell them. So please share it on Twitter or Facebook or send them an email.

I am not a medical professional, and this blog is for information only. If you have any worries you should consult your doctor.

I hope this blog has helped.


More Information.



Linda Rook

Linda is now retired and has suffered from Osteoarthritis for about 40+ years.  She struggled with her weight until she found the correct one that also helped with her arthritic pain.  Linda was in terrible pain until the physician thought her right hip needed replacement. 

Now Linda has an artificial right hip, which has left her with the left leg shorter than the right.  Therefore, her spine is now wonky, and has arthritis of the lower back, also it seems to be going all over the body, her pain is now in the knees, elbow, wrist, fingers and both hips.

Linda now spends her days writing information to help others with the same conditions, so they do not suffer like Linda.

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Coping With Pregnancy and Chronic Illness.

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