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What is Rheumatism?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Rheumatism is a medical term once frequently used to describe disorders associated with many different parts of the body. Most often, people associate the word with arthritis, or with rheumatic fever, a complication of strep throat that can result in damage to the heart. The term can be used to refer to the symptoms of numerous conditions that can cause pain and/or weakness, however.

Some conditions that were once given the general label of rheumatism or called rheumatic diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, and tendinitis. Frequently, autoimmune disorders, since they remained unnamed but caused pain as well as affecting other organs, were grouped together under this label. Illnesses like lupus were particularly susceptible to being called rheumatism. Later understanding of the actions of these illnesses show that the problem is not dysfunction of the joints, but rather immune systems that can attack joints, muscles and organs.

Some forms are called non-articular rheumatism and may affect the soft tissues causing pain throughout the body. Conditions like tendinitis and fibromyalgia fall into this category. In addition, these forms can be localized to specific areas in the body. Bursitis is form that affects and inflames the bursa, which are special sacs that protect joints and overlapping muscles. It most frequently occurs at the site of a joint that may have been injured through overuse.

Other forms of non-articular rheumatism may also result from repetitive motion. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is in this class and is often caused by poor position when typing, or by positional problems when assembling multiple products of the same type.

Another type is temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), which only affects the joints in the jaws. Many people suffer from this condition, which can cause the mouth to get stuck when its open or closed, or cause painful popping and clicking when the jaw is moved.

The general term rheumatism is seldom heard now in medical communities because health professionals feel that specific naming of illnesses can better point toward standards or treatment and care. Treating lupus, for example, is hugely different from treating bursitis or TMJ. With more specified names comes specified research that can help determine a range of information about an illness. Overly general terms lack the specificity required to define the action of a condition, which best directs effective treatment.

TheHealthBoard is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a TheHealthBoard contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By anon281288 — On Jul 23, 2012

What happens to somebody who has overused the Fabian joint playing football?

By anon241651 — On Jan 19, 2012

@anon177674, Post 34: This is precisely the same case with me. It gets worse with reduced temperatures.

By anon187604 — On Jun 18, 2011

If parents have rheumatism, and his children are healthy, what are the risks, the children will get rheumatism?

By anon177674 — On May 19, 2011

Please help me. i am suffering from a pain in my right foot under the sole. i can hardly walk after I wake up, nor a couple of minutes after riding a bus. Is this rheumatism? I am 41 years old now and i started to feel this pain just a month ago. What medicine can cure this and what food should be avoided? thanks

By anon169381 — On Apr 21, 2011

my back left leg in severe pain. I couldn't walk for the day. I went to the doctor took injection and medications it was better for the day. the next day the pain moved to arms and joints. i couldn't open my hands. Amazingly this pain keeps moving up and down. What is this?

By anon136228 — On Dec 21, 2010

what is rheumatism? and what are its symptoms? can pain in the knee joints be declared as a symptom of rheumatism?

By anon131112 — On Dec 01, 2010

ayurvedic treatment is very good for joint pains. homeopathic is also good in some cases.

By anon117926 — On Oct 12, 2010

my fiance often complain of waist pain, back pain, leg pain and sometimes thigh pain. Please what can be the cause of this and what could be the preventive measures or cure?

By anon116116 — On Oct 05, 2010

I'm suffering pain in my hips mostly in my left side for almost one month. i am curious about this matter and I'm afraid to go in to the doctor to check. it's really hurting every time i sit and i sleep. is it rheumatism? please kindly answer me and help me, thanks!

By anon114206 — On Sep 27, 2010

I have severe pain on my rt arm that travels to my left arm. I also have back neck pain of which sometimes I feel a small portion of my pain to cramp up for seconds. Can this be caused by rheumatism? One doctor recommended a neurologist, another doctor ordered x ray of my head. Is there any doctor out there who can actually help me find out the cause of this pain and advise everyone else for some kind of treatment.

By anon114066 — On Sep 27, 2010

I was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis at age 16, and now Im 22 and still struggling day-to-day. I recently had to claim disability because I could not do my CNA/ Grooming work any longer.

The pain started in my feet up to my knees, progressed to my hips and I am now in complete pain from the neck down. There is no cure I have heard, but medication and a healthy diet (no red meat, do some research) and exercise can help relieve pain. Simply stretching your arms and leg can do more then you would imagine.

I frequently ask my fiance to give me "hand" massages because I do type enough to seize my hands up.

Every person is different and handles the condition differently. Find what helps you and stick to it. If you are desperately seeking help or answers try your local free health clinic of contact local hospitals and see if they offer rheumatology clinics to the public. Hope I could help in some way. Good luck to you all. My heart goes out to you. --Brandy

By anon104558 — On Aug 17, 2010

My brother has had rheumatism for about five years now. he lives in afghanistan. now he can't get up and he lost weight and he is always in very severe pain all the time. can someone help me please?

is it curable? what is good for him and what should he avoid? many thanks.

By psandoval1 — On Jun 02, 2010

does it make muscles twitch during the night and not let you sleep?

By anon84913 — On May 18, 2010

i live in mongolia. my younger sister has had rheumatism for three or four years. In mongolia, it is called hereh uvchin. now my sister drinks herbal remedies. please give me any suggestions? where is a good hospital? sorry i speak english little.

By anon72220 — On Mar 22, 2010

does it act like a shock on the legs?

By anon71828 — On Mar 20, 2010

I'm having difficulty using my right hand. hard to move. stiffness and painful when i try to move it. close open movements are quite impossible to do.

By anon67517 — On Feb 25, 2010

does rheumatism affect the legs? or does it affect movement?

By anon61277 — On Jan 19, 2010

Is it a cause of body exhaustion?

By anon59468 — On Jan 08, 2010

I have a hip pain, is that rheumatism?

By signor — On Dec 22, 2009

please does rheumatism have a cure? help me and tell me the medication (tablets and injections). my friend has an itching body and it swells any moment she scratches it and the skin turns reddish there. she also has a dry throat. thanks

By anon55846 — On Dec 10, 2009

What plants are used for rheumatism

By anon48396 — On Oct 12, 2009

my old mother of about 65 has complained of pains all over her body, fever and total restlessness all the time for about 10 years now. doctors suggested that it is rheumastism. please, can you prescribe medicines, injection and treatment for my dear mother? I live in norway. i await your urgent and positive reply. thanks.

By anon41142 — On Aug 13, 2009

I have hypothyroidism and after a series of blood tests they have told me I have slightly elevated levels of rheumatism. What can this mean? I am 39 years old, live in Germany and am very active. I have extra heart beats too.

By anon38023 — On Jul 23, 2009

i think i also feel this arthritis caused my legs aches that radiates down to my toes. what are the specific medications that i should take? and is it true that after taking shoes and wihtout resting i wash my foot can cause arthritis?

By naretabaybeh — On Jul 12, 2009

How long does this sickness last for????

By anon36469 — On Jul 12, 2009

Can this disease be inherited by a family member?

could you die from this disease?

By anon23689 — On Dec 31, 2008

is it completely curable?

By anon1456 — On May 31, 2007

Is rheumatic arthris cureable in allopathy system or unani system or ayurvedic system

By apetr2 — On Apr 26, 2007

If one of the parents has rheumatism, will his children be healthy? What is the risk that the children will get rheumatism as well??


Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a TheHealthBoard contributor, Tricia...
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