Cora, 60, recently noticed her joints getting more painful and stiff especially in the mornings. Her fingers ache and she has a hard time preparing food or sending text messages. Her knees are also painful at times, making it harder for her to walk. She has tried gentle massage, compresses, and even supplements supposedly good for the joints. She says it’s probably part of the aging process, but wonders if there’s more relief for her, or if it will get worse over time. She plans to see her doctor about this problem soon.
Arthritis vs. rheumatism
Paul Santos Estrella, M.D., a rheumatologist from St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City and Bonifacio Global City, says rheumatism is an old heading for disorders of the body, particularly the connective tissues such as joints, tendons, muscle, ligaments, muscles and bone. Arthritis is a subheading, which refers specifically to inflammation of the joints. He says in the history of rheumatology, "rheum" came from the Greek word meaning "to flow." From this, it was thought that the joint swelling was caused by harmful fluid flowing within our body.
One term is often confused with the other. Dr. Estrella explains that in the Filipino language, rayuma is interchanged with arthritis because of how doctors used older terminology. Nowadays, the term “rheumatism” isn’t used in the medical community except when pertaining to "soft tissue rheumatism" or disorders of the tendons, ligament, fascia and bursa—and usually related to use, misuse, disuse or overuse.
Knowing your joint disorders
Arthritis literally means joint inflammation. It refers to disorders affecting the joints and falls under the broader category of rheumatic diseases. According to the World Health Organization (who.int), rheumatic or musculoskeletal conditions comprise over 150 diseases and syndromes that are usually progressive and associated with pain. In the U.S., more than 46 million people are said to have arthritis or other rheumatic conditions.
Typically, the affected patient will complain of joint stiffness, pain, or swelling. Arthritis can attack neighboring structures such as muscles, liver, lungs, kidneys and heart. It tends to be a long-term disorder. The most common disorders include: