Rheumatic diseases are chronic diseases that affect the skin, bones, joint structures and muscles, usually causing inflammation and pain. Although rheumatic diseases take many forms, many have a common origin: the body's immune system mistakes its own cells for harmful foreign agents and attacks them.
To understand how inflammation and pain occur in a joint, it's important to understand how our joints and muscles work together to give us the ability to move - from picking up a pencil to dancing and from walking to nodding our heads. Every joint is made up of:
- Cartilage - a smooth, white, shock-absorbing layer that caps each bone to allow it to move smooth against the other bone or bones in the joint
- Synovial membrane - provides lubrication for the joint
- Ligaments - strong fibers that attach one bone to another, keeping the joint stable, supported and properly aligned
- Tendons - attach muscles to bones either above or below the joint
Some joints also have fluid-filled sacs (bursae) between the muscles, tendons and bones. Bursae are designed to reduce the friction that occurs when the bones, muscles and tendons move. Each bursa is lined with a synovial membrane, which releases lubricating fluid.
Cedars-Sinai's Rheumatology Services offers comprehensive treatments, including:
- Assistive devices
- Drug therapy
- Joint injections/aspiration
- Lifestyle modifications
- Pain management
*Reprinted from Rheumatology, 3rd Edition. Peter A. Simkin. "The Musculoskeletal System," pg. 58. 2003, with permission from Elsevier.