(Investigator 151, 2013
refers to any
disease or disability in which there is inflammation in a joint.
Frequently the expression "rheumatism" is used as synonymous with
arthritis but, strictly speaking, it is a more general term referring
to pain and inflammation not only in the joints but also in
non-articular connective tissues either in localised areas or
throughout the body
length of time that
man and other creatures have been plagued by this crippling disease has
been evidenced by unmistakable signs of osteoarthritis in the skeleton
of a Neanderthal man dating from about 40,000 B.C., and in dinosaurs of
the Mesozioc period.
principal cause of
arthritis is the invasion of bacteria into the joints. The pus produced
in response to infection erodes the cartilage which covers the ends of
the articular bony surfaces. In the absence of any ability to
regenerate after sustaining damage, such infections can cause serious
and permanent harm. Fortunately, the condition responds well to modern
antibiotics, but where antibiotic therapy may be insufficient as in the
case of tuberculous arthritis, surgical fusing of the joint may be
required as well.
serious and poorly
understood is the degenerative joint disease called osteoarthritis.
When the degeneration of the articular cartilage becomes advanced,
large areas of the bony surface may become denuded of cartilage.
projections may also
grow out from the margins of the bones and cause mechanical
interference with motion.
the large numbers
of people that suffer from one or other of the nearly one hundred
variations of the disease, and the concomitant problems associated with
its diagnosis and treatment, it provides a fertile field for quacks and
are copper bracelets and magnets, heat machines, vibrators and
whirlpool baths —
all of which are useless.
Lotions, creams, oils,
liniments, vitamins and minerals, vaccines, hormones and the venom from
snakes, bees and ants are also popular, and although in some cases may
produce a temporary soothing effect, hold no greater potential.
is a crippling
disease, it can strike at any age and last a life-time. Much of its
pain and disability can be alleviated however, through early diagnosis
and a well-designed programme of medication, special exercises, rest,
and other measures —
prescribed not by gadgetmen or
health food shop
assistants but a well-trained physician.
Merchants. In Barrett, S. (Ed.) 1993. The Health Robbers,
Books, Buffalo, New York.
treatment strategies of arthritis sufferers. Social Science and
Arthritis: folk remedies and quackery. Nutritional Forum 7:1-3,
The mistreatment of arthritis. In Health Schemes, Scams and Frauds,
pp.112-130. Consumer Reports Books, New York.
Controversial arthritis remedies. Bulletin on the Rheumatic Diseases
Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic &
Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics