What are the Most Common Symptoms of Rheumatism?

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  • Written By: DM Gutierrez
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2016
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The term rheumatism covers a range of disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, palindromic rheumatism, and nonarticular rheumatism. These conditions have several symptoms in common, such as joint and muscle pain and stiffness, joint inflammation, and redness and warmth to the affected area. Treating symptoms can be challenging, since pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion are often of varying frequency and duration.

When people refer to rheumatism, they generally mean rheumatoid arthritis. This autoimmune disorder causes the classic symptoms of swollen, reddened joints in the hands and feet. Joints are usually painful to the touch, and the inflamed area may be warm. Range of motion is typically decreased since joints are often stiff in the morning in the early stages. Stiffness may last throughout the day if joint erosion occurs in later stages. Although rheumatoid arthritis typically begins in the small bones of the body, it is a chronic condition that often progresses to pain in the shoulders, neck, and back throughout the aging process.

Palindromic rheumatism (PR) is an intermittent condition resulting in sudden joint inflammation, which causes pain and stiffness. Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, this condition has no lasting effect on joints. PR can progress to rheumatoid arthritis, typically at a rate of 50 percent. Drugs traditionally used to treat malaria often decrease the severity and frequency of symptoms in this condition and have been known to lessen the likelihood of developing the more serious and chronic rheumatoid arthritis.


Nonarticular rheumatism, or regional pain syndrome (RPS), affects the soft tissues around the joints. Conditions like fibromyalgia and bursitis are examples of RPS. These conditions can cause pain either locally, like in the shoulder or hip as in bursitis, or in non-specific areas of the body, as in fibromyalgia. In bursitis, the joint swelling, stiffness, and pain are caused by inflammation of the synovial sacs, which act as cushions between the bone and soft tissue of a joint. The causes of fibromyalgia are not well-understood, but symptoms of pain and tenderness occur after activity and rest, while the pain of bursitis occurs during movement of the affected area, decreasing or disappearing during rest.

Treatment of the most common symptoms associated with the different forms of the condition include anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, and surgery, such as joint replacement. Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, regular low-impact exercise, and stress-reducing techniques, are typically advised for symptom relief. Treatment of the underlying conditions is usually inconsistent, since the symptoms can be intermittent, non-specific, and variable in frequency and duration.


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Post 10

@drtroubles - If you are looking for a rheumatism definition it is generally something that attacks the muscles, and not always the joints. When someone is suffering from a rheumatic disorder they can be sure of an illness that can target the joints, bones, tendons or ligaments.

As for arthritis, there are numerous kinds. Some kinds go after joints, while others can attack muscles. Both of these diseases are degenerative and can cause a ton of issues.

To help your mother I would suggest encouraging her to do light exercise. Go swimming with her or go on walks. The movement will help her immensely. Beyond that try to promote a healthy lifestyle. Maintaining a normal body weight can help keep pressure off joints.

Post 9

What is the difference between rheumatism and arthritis?

My mother has been suffering from rheumatoid arthritis for awhile now and I am wondering what exactly is causing her symptoms. She has terrible swelling in her joints and a lot of pain when she tries to move about. I know that rheumatic diseases can be difficult to treat, so I would like to know if there are any specific things I could help my mother with.

Currently my mother is taking some prescribed medication, but she finds it only helps a little bit. She still has constant stiffness and soreness. She struggles to lead a normal life.

Post 8

@burcinc-- Many people seem to use the terms rheumatism and arthritis interchangeably. What's the difference between rheumatism and arthritis anyway?

Is rheumatism just a sub-category of arthritis?

How do the symptoms of the two differ from one another?

Post 7

I have palindromic rheumatism in my hands. Before I was diagnosed with it, I used to complain all the time about a burning sensation in my hands and slight pain when I tried to grip or hold things. It also felt very hot from time to time.

I don't know if palindromic rheumatism is a little different from the other kinds, but it really didn't seem like rheumatism to me at first. I first thought that I had Carpel Tunnel Syndrome or arthritis, because the symptoms would start out as less in the morning and then increase in intensity towards the end of the day and with more activity.

I'm so glad I got blood drawn which confirmed that it was rheumatism. After the diagnosis, I've been on medication and have been using cream pain relievers which thankfully have eliminated most of my symptoms.

Post 6

@SarahSon – My grandmother's doctor told her that damp weather can make joints swell. He also said that cold air can make them stiff, so it is no wonder that your arthritis flares up in cold, rainy weather.

My grandmother has always known that her pain gets worse in the winter. Several doctors have dismissed the theory that the weather can have this effect, but studies have shown that it is true. My grandmother's doctor is one of the people who led such a study.

He told her to wear special gloves made for people with arthritis. They are very thin and flexible, and she wears them to bed on cold nights. When she wakes up, her hands don't hurt because they are warm. She wears them around the house as much as possible to prevent pain.

Post 5

@Perdido - My mother experiences what you are describing after an hour or so of cross-stitching, which she does for run. She does have rheumatoid arthritis, so that could be what you have.

She used to write in her spare time, but she has slacked up on that because it also causes her pain. Writing with a pen is not as bad as typing, which kills her fingers after a few minutes.

She wears compression gloves to lessen the pain, and they have helped a great deal. These might be good for you after gardening, but there are also several medications on the market that might actually help you prevent an onset of inflammation.

Post 4

I have been gardening all my life, but recently, I have started getting shooting pains in my fingers after weeding the flower bed. This is strange and new to me.

The pain lasts for hours. It feels like my fingers are burning on the inside. It also feels like the pain is moving constantly up and down my fingers, rather than lingering in one place.

Could this be rheumatoid arthritis? I haven't noticed swelling and redness, but it sure fits the other symptoms. Has anyone here experienced similar pain after activities involving the fingers?

Post 3

I have fibromyalgia, and for years, I didn't know what was wrong. I have been so tired, weak, and stiff, and though my doctor tested both my iron levels and my thyroid function, she found nothing wrong.

Sometimes I ache so much from just a small amount of activity. I'm in my early thirties, and this doesn't make sense to me. I used to be so active, but know, I feel like I'm falling apart.

There is no cure for my condition. All I can do is eat a healthy diet and use a heating pad when I ache. I have started swimming for exercise, and this is how I avoid the muscle pain that comes with regular workouts.

Post 2

I have joint rheumatism in the early stages. My ankles are mostly affected and they basically ache on and off all day long. The pain is worse when there is more humidity, especially on days that it rains. It's also more when I lay down to sleep and early in the mornings.

I haven't observed any swelling yet thankfully, but the pain is difficult to live with. I apply topical analgesics and rub my ankles which helps a lot. I don't know much about rheumatism's causes, but I think that it might be genetic because my grandfather and father also have it and it affects their ankles the most as well.

Post 1

I remember my grandma complaining of her rheumatism. Especially if it was a cold, damp day she would really be bothered with these symptoms.

I don't know if she ever had a formal diagnosis of rheumatism, but know it affected her life for many years.

When I first started noticing similar rheumatism symptoms in my hands, she was the first thing I thought of. When these symptoms continued to persist, I decided to have it checked out.

My doctor told me I had the beginning stages of rheumatoid arthritis and it was not uncommon for this to show up in the hands or the smaller joints in the body first.

So far I have not taken

any prescription medication for it, but really notice how stiff and sore my hands are in the morning. It takes them awhile to get going, and I also find that it is worse when it is rainy and cold.

Does anybody know why this type of weather seems to make this condition worse?

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