Rheumatism: various questions and answers

Many people are directly or indirectly familiar with the condition rheumatism. However, many of them do not know exactly what rheumatism is and what treatment options are available. This article attempts to answer the most frequently asked questions about rheumatism; musculoskeletal disorders.

What is rheumatism?

Rheumatism is a collective name for more than 100 types of disorders of the musculoskeletal system , especially the joints . Currently, 132 types of rheume can be distinguished. These 132 species are further divided into three categories:

  1. Inflammatory rheumatism : especially joint inflammation
  2. Osteoarthritis : the most common form of rheumatism, which results in wear and tear of the joints
  3. Soft tissue rheumatism : rheumatism of the muscles, tendons and ligaments

Some popularly known forms of rheumatism:

  • Arthritis
  • Arthrosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Gout
  • Lyme
  • Osteoporosis

A 2003 study showed that 57,100 men and 90,400 women suffer from the condition rheumatism. These estimates are based on data from general practitioner databases. However, the actual number may be much higher, as people without a diagnosis can also have rheumatism.

When is it wise to go to the doctor?

Everyone sometimes has pain in the joints or a muscle that does not feel good. However, it is wise to visit the doctor if one or more of the following complaints persist and do not go away after resting for a number of days or occur repeatedly:

  • Swelling of one or more joints
  • Pain and stiffness when moving, especially at first
  • Pain in the muscles and joints


How does rheumatism progress?

Most people discover that they have rheumatism when their GP refers them to a rheumatologist or internist who diagnoses the condition. A rheumatologist or internist performs various examinations and tests to see whether someone has rheumatism. These people make a diagnosis and then refer you to a movement specialist, usually an exercise therapist, an orthopedic surgeon or an occupational therapist.
Rheumatism has a wide variety course . The course of rheumatism also depends greatly on the damage to the joints. In some cases, only the cartilage is affected and partly lost, in others holes have already developed in the bone. These holes are called erosions . There are erosive and non-erosive forms of rheumatism. The longer one has rheumatism, the greater the chance of erosions.
Rheumatism has a distinction between forms with and forms without rheumatoid factors . These are certain antibodies that are present in the body. These forms are called seronegative and seropositive forms. Most people with rheumatism are initially seronegative, but as the condition progresses they often become seropositive.

What treatment is possible for rheumatism?

To date, rheumatism cannot be cured , but only treated. However, there are various methods on the market to combat and/or alleviate the effects of rheumatism. Which form of treatment is suitable depends largely on the type of rheumatism and the stage of the condition. If it is discovered that the rheumatism is the result of, for example, incorrect use of the muscles in the body, this cause will first be treated before seeking further treatment.


If it appears that the complaints do not go away or are sufficiently reduced with the help of exercise therapy , you may decide to switch to medication . Anti-inflammatories such as naproxen help reduce swelling and suppress pain. Various nutritional supplements against rheumatism are also available.
If the milder forms of medication are not sufficient, one can decide to take medication that suppresses the immune system and thus the inflammation.


In some forms of rheumatism it is possible for the joints to be cleaned or even replaced with prostheses. A prosthesis is an artificial joint that works almost identically to a natural joint.

Alternative treatments

In addition to regular medical care, there are various other options for treating rheumatism. Think of aromatherapy, phytotherapy, yoga, reiki treatments, acupuncture and the like. Some people really benefit from this. However, caution is advised, as it concerns something very valuable: your own body!

Resources and compensation

tools you can turn to to make life with rheumatism easier . For example, the physiotherapist can help you deal with movement restrictions and teach you tricks so that you can make optimal use of the remaining options.
Help is also available in the form of services . You can consider choosing a housekeeper, someone to cook for you, someone to help you get dressed, etc.
In some cases it may be wise to look for an adapted home or to adapt your own home in such a way that it is habitable for you again. Consider removing thresholds in the house, a bedroom on the ground floor, a lowered countertop and the like.
Unfortunately, aids and adjustments are not always reimbursed . It is therefore wise to check exactly what rights you have under your health insurance and, if necessary, consider choosing a different health insurer . If your own piggy bank is empty, you can often still claim a number of reimbursements for healthcare costs. It is best to contact the treating doctor or the WIA for this.

What can you do yourself?

Although it may sound contradictory, it is very important to keep moving with rheumatism. Exercise ensures that your muscles and bones remain strong and your joints remain flexible or become more flexible. This makes the joints less stiff. Swimming, cycling, walking and various self-exercises are very suitable for reducing complaints caused by rheumatism.
On the website http://www.reumadoehetzelf.n l/forum/tips-en-handigheidjes.html you will find various tips to help you deal with your condition better.

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