RHEUMATIC DISEASES refer to over 200 conditions that cause pain in the tendons, ligaments, bones, muscles, and internal organs like the kidneys. Many of these diseases are autoimmune while others are caused by genetics, infection, and gender (women are more prone to them than men).  

The four symptoms common among these diseases are pain in the hands, fingers, shoulders, or knees; stiffness, swelling, and tenderness in joints and muscles; redness and warmth in muscles; and lack of mobility in specific joints and muscles.  

“If over-the-counter drugs and rest doesn’t relieve your pain… maybe there’s an underlying cause. That pain could be the tip of the iceberg,” said Dr. Jonathan Paul C. Consignado, an internist and rheumatologist, in the vernacular at an Oct. 25 webinar organized by the Philippine College of Physicians (PCP). “Consider consulting an internist or rheumatologist.”  

Soft tissue rheumatism, gouty arthritis (gout), osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis can be treated on an outpatient basis.  

Rest, the application of a hot or cold compress, maintenance of a healthy weight, and prescribed medications are among the remedies.  

“Avoid precipitating factors,” Dr. Consignado said. Gout flare-ups, for instance, are triggered by alcohol consumption, dehydration, and food rich in purines (such as organ meat and seafood).  

Uric acid is formed when purines are broken down in the digestive system; the accumulation of this acid in the joints gives rise to gout.  

While seafood and red meat can still be consumed in moderation, Dr. Consignado advised Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and Mediterranean diets.   

The DASH diet includes foods that are rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium, and limits foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. The foundation of the Mediterranean diet, meanwhile, is on plant-based foods such as whole grains, vegetables, legumes, fruits, nuts, herbs, and spices. Olive oil is the main source of added fat.  

“Drink lots of water too,” he said, since hydrating flushes out waste products and prevents them from accumulating in the blood. 

As there are only around 200 rheumatologists in the Philippines, Dr. Consignado said that more doctors need to specialize in rheumatic diseases in order to treat those who live in remote areas. — Patricia B. Mirasol 


Sidebar | Hot or cold compress?  

Should you use a hot or cold compress when you’re suffering from joint and muscle pain? It depends on your objective, said Dr. Jonathan Paul C. Consignado, an internist and rheumatologist.  

To relieve swelling, use a cold compress: “This has an anti-inflammatory effect and anesthetizes the pain a bit.”   

For pain relief, a warm compress is ideal because it expands the blood vessels, leading to better blood flow.   

If both pain and swelling is present, use a hot compress first, followed after a few minutes by a cold compress. This, Dr. Consignado said, has a massaging effect and can help reduce the need to take medication.