Rheumatology is concerned with medical disorders of the locomotor system, which can be divided into three categories: arthritis, back pain and soft-tissue rheumatism. Most of these diseases are seen worldwide, although the prevalence of individual conditions varies. Rheumatic diseases constitute about 20% of the work-load of a primary- care physician.
The normal joint
The structure of a typical synovial joint is shown. The joint itself is made up of two articulating bone urfaces, each covered with articular cartilage, and a fibrous capsule lined by synovium. The space within the joint is filled with synovial fluid, which acts as a lubricant. Inflammation of the above structures is described as arthritis. The term arthropathy is sometimes used to describe joint disease of any type. The joint is surrounded by so-called ‘soft tissues’, including tendons, ligaments and bursae. The specialized junction of tendon and bon is called an enthesis; this can also become inflamed.
The main terms used in rheumatology are outlined In Information box