Although it may sound like a specific medical condition, soft-tissue rheumatism is actually a category of illnesses which lead to pain or inflammation in the tissues around the joints. Conditions classified as soft-tissue rheumatisms can include tendinitis, bursitis, capsulitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
Types of soft-tissue rheumatisms
There are several different kinds of soft-tissue rheumatic disorders. Some of the most common ones include:
- Tendinitis (inflammation of a tendon). Tendinitis is caused by repetitive movements over time, for example, while playing sports. Therefore, the condition is often found in tennis players and golfers (“tennis elbow” or “golfer’s elbow”) as well as in swimmers (“swimmer’s shoulder”).
- Bursitis (inflammation of the bursae–fluid-containing sacs near the joints). Bursitis is usually diagnosed in the shoulder, hip, or elbow and is caused by repetitive movements, injury, or trauma.
- Fibromyalgia (severe musculoskeletal pain throughout the body). This condition can be triggered by physical or psychological trauma or as a result of infection. It can also be hereditary.
- Capsulitis (inflammation of the toe ligaments which form a “capsule” around the bone ends). Capsulitis is caused by too much pressure or stress being put on the ball of the foot.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (inflammation of the carpal bones in the wrist). This condition is caused by overuse of the median nerve (found in the wrist area). This disorder has been linked to routine use of a keyboard and mouse.
Most illnesses categorized as soft-tissue rheumatisms affect joints in the feet, ankles, knees, back, neck, shoulders, and wrists.
What causes soft-tissue rheumatic disorders?
Soft-tissue rheumatisms are common diseases and can present themselves even in healthy people. These disorders are mainly caused by constant, repetitive joint stress or overuse. But some soft-tissue rheumatisms, like fibromyalgia, can be caused by infection, and others can be triggered by entirely separate conditions, like arthritis or gout.
In some cases, an abnormal reaction to medication can result in a soft-tissue rheumatism.
Treating soft-tissue rheumatic disorders
Conditions in this category are treated using a number of methods.
- Medications. Drugs used to treat soft-tissue rheumatisms may include NSAIDs, (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen, as well as glucocorticoids. Both types of medications reduce pain and inflammation.
- Lifestyle changes. Tendinitis, for example, is caused by repetitive motions during physical activity, so taking a break from sports for a while can heal the condition, as well as many other conditions caused by repetition. During this rest period, certain types of exercise are allowed, but usually under the guidance of a physical therapist.
- Surgery. With some soft-tissue rheumatisms such as carpal tunnel syndrome, bursitis, and tendinitis, surgery may be used to relieve pain and correct the condition.
Written by Natan Rosenfeld