There are many causes of joint pain. In and around the joint, there are numerous structures that can give rise to pain – from the ligaments or muscle outside the joint, or from disease within the joint capsule.
“Rheumatism” is derived from the Greek word, “rheumatikos”, from “rheuma”, a flow. It is generally used to refer to the many pathological conditions, characterised by discomfort and disability, which can occur in the muscles, tendons, joints, bones or nerves.
“Arthritis” literally means joint inflammation. “Arth” refers to the joints, and “itis” refers to inflammation. Arthritis is not a single disease, and not all arthritis is inflammatory.
Typically, arthritis is used to refer to diseases that cause problems within the joint capsule, and rheumatism for conditions that affect structures outside the joint capsule.
Usually, rheumatism is regarded as less serious, and in many cases, can be self-limiting. Some examples of rheumatism would be tennis elbow or plantar fasciitis (a type of heel pain).
In contrast, if arthritis is left untreated, it may lead to joint deformity and disability. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis affecting people of all ages. However, arthritis and rheumatism have one thing in common – all their sufferers feel pain.
Is it arthritis?
When you feel pain around your joints, how do you know whether you have serious arthritis?
If joint pain persists, you need to see a doctor. When you go to the doctor, he/she will ask you questions about your joint pain. This is to try to work out exactly where your pain is coming from, and if it is coming from the joint, to differentiate whether your pain is mechanical or inflammatory in nature, as discussed in the previous article.
The doctor would then examine the affected joint(s) and perhaps do some blood tests or x-rays if required, before coming to a diagnosis.