Rheumatism or rheumatic disorders are conditions causing chronic, often intermittent pain affecting the joints or connective tissue. Rheumatism does not designate any specific disorder, but covers at least 200 different conditions, including arthritis and "non-articular rheumatism", also known as "regional pain syndrome" or "soft tissue rheumatism". There is a close overlap between the term soft tissue disorder and rheumatism. Sometimes the term "soft tissue rheumatic disorders" is used to describe these conditions.
A vast number of traditional herbal remedies have been recommended for "rheumatism". Modern medicine recognises that the different rheumatic disorders have different causes (and several of them have multiple causes) and require different kinds of treatment.
The ancient Greeks recorded that bee venom had some beneficial effects on some types of rheumatism. Bee and ant stings were known as a folk remedy in the late 19th century, and at least one physician developed a treatment consisting of repeated formic acid injections. Certain Amazonian tribes, including the Zo'é, use fire ant stings as a remedy for aches and pains.
The term rheumatism stems from the Late Latinrheumatismus, ultimately from Greek "to suffer from a flux", with rheum meaning bodily fluids, i.e. any discharge of blood or bodily fluid.
Before the 17th century, the joint pain which was thought to be caused by viscous humours seeping into the joints was always referred to as gout, a word adopted in Middle English from Old Frenchgote "a drop; the gout, rheumatism", not to be confused with the present day specific term referring to excess of uric acid.
The English term rheumatism in the current sense has been in use since the late 17th century, as it was believed that chronic joint pain was caused by excessive flow of rheum which means bodily fluids into a joint.
^Barnhart, Robert K., ed., Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, H.W. Wilson Co., 1988. Quote "The meaning of a disease of the joints is first recorded in 1688, because rheumatism was thought to be caused by an excessive flow of rheum into a joint thereby stretching ligaments"