Rheumatism or rheumatic disorders are conditions causing chronic, often intermittent pain affecting the joints or connective tissue. Rheumatism does not designate any specific disorder, but covers at least 200 different conditions including arthritis and “non-articular rheumatism”, also known as “regional pain syndrome” or “soft tissue rheumatism”. There is a close overlap between the term soft tissue disorder and rheumatism. Sometimes the term “soft tissue rheumatic disorders” is used to describe these conditions.
The term “Rheumatic Diseases” is used in MeSH to refer to connective tissue disorders. The branch of medicine devoted to the diagnosis and therapy of rheumatism is called rheumatology.
- 1 Types
- 2 Treatment
- 3 History
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
Many rheumatic disorders of chronic, intermittent pain (including joint pain, neck pain or back pain) have historically been caused by infectious diseases. Their etiology was unknown until the 20th century and not treatable, like Lyme disease (in the Northern and Northeastern US), coccidiomycosis or valley fever (in the Western US), and chikungunya in India and a myriad of causes for postinfectious arthritis also known as reactive arthritis like, for example, the once very common rheumatic fever after Group A Streptococcus infection up to the rare Whipple’s disease.
Major rheumatic disorders can divided into 10 major categories based on the nomenclature and classification proposed by the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) in 1983, and they are:
- Diffuse connective tissue diseases
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Juvenile arthritis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Sjögren syndrome
- Behçet’s disease
- Relapsing polychondritis
- Arthritis associated with spondylitis (i.e., spondarthritis)
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Reactive arthritis
- Psoriatic arthritis
- Osteoarthritis (i.c., osteoarthrosis, degenerative joint disease)
- Rheumatic syndromes associated with infectious agents (direct and indirect or reactive)
- Metabolic and endocrine diseases associated with rheumatic states
- Gout, pseudogout
- Neurovascular disorders
- Bone and cartilage disorders
- Extraarticular disorders
- Bursitis/Tendinitis of the shoulder, wrist, biceps, leg, knee cap (patella), ankle, hip, and Achilles tendon
- Miscellaneous disorders associated with articular manifestations
- Palindromic rheumatism has been theorized to be a form of rheumatoid arthritis.
A vast number of traditional herbal remedies have been recommended for “rheumatism”. Modern medicine, recognises that the different rheumatic disorders have different causes (and several of them have multiple causes) and require different kinds of treatment.
Nevertheless, initial therapy of the major rheumatological diseases is with analgesics, such as paracetamol and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), members of which are ibuprofen and naproxen. Often, stronger analgesics are required.
The ancient Greeks recorded that bee venom had some beneficial effects on some types of rheumatism. Bee and ant stings were known as a folk remedy in the late 19th century, and at least one physician developed a treatment consisting of repeated formic acid injections. Certain Amazonian tribes, including the Zo’é, use fire ant stings as a remedy for aches and pains.
Cod liver oil has also been used as a remedy.
Neem Tree Oil according to East Indian cultures has also been used as a remedy.
The term rheumatism stems from the Late Latin rheumatismus, ultimately from Greek ῥευματίζομαι “to suffer from a flux”, with rheum meaning bodily fluids, i.e. any discharge of blood or bodily fluid.
Before the 17th century, the joint pain which was thought to be caused by viscous humours seeping into the joints was always referred to as gout, a word adopted in Middle English from Old French gote “a drop; the gout, rheumatism”, not to be confused with the present day specific term referring to excess of uric acid.
The English term rheumatism in the current sense has been in use since the late 17th century, as it was believed that chronic joint pain was caused by excessive flow of rheum which means bodily fluids into a joint.
- Corbett’s electrostatic machine
- The Rheumatology Handbook (WSPC 2012) ISBN 978-1-84816-320-1
- American College of Rheumatology
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases - US National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases