View Full Version : Rheumatism
10-07-2006, 06:10 PM
What is rheumatism? I found a Universal Liniment in Peterson's Magazine 1864, this was good "for rheumatism in the head", "for other complaints, the parts affected" get rubbed with the linement. I'm getting the impression rhuematism was general aches and pains of the body? The liniment consisted of egg, vinegar, turpentine, spirits of wine (gin? y/n?) and camphor.
10-07-2006, 08:21 PM
Medically speaking, rheumatism was "A kind of shifting phlegmasia, sometimes seated in the muscles, sometimes in the parts surrounding the joints; and at others, within them. Hence the names Muscular, Articular, and Synovial, which have been applied to it. The disease may be acute, or chronic."
Phlegmasia or phlegmon was "Inflammation of the areolar texture accompanied with redness, circumscribed swelling, increased heat and pain; which is, at first, tensive and lancinating; afterwards, pulsatory and heavy. It is apt to terminate in suppuration." (Definitions from Dunglison's 1851 Dictionary of Medical Science.)
So it refers to pain, swelling, heat and redness, and in general, like today, it was assumed to be in the large joints or the muscles surrounding them. For example, chronic rheumatism was defined as "pains in the hips, shoulders, knees, and other large joints."
But the basic definition didn't have to apply only to that. Dunglison doesn't have a specific listing for rheumatism of the head, but he does have many sub-listings for things like rheumatism of the face, of the heart, of the uterus, etc.
There's a discussion of rheumatism of the head in William Harvey's Rheumatism, Gout and Neuralgia as Affecting the Head and Ear, 1852, starting p. 110, at google books. Hopefully this link will take you there:
10-07-2006, 08:33 PM
spirits of wine (gin? y/n?)
Forgot to answer this part. Spirits of wine was a synonym for almost pure alcohol, according to the US Dispensatory, 1851. "Rectified spirit of the specific gravity 0.835." They said it was usually manufactured from whisky "and from every hundred gallons, between fifty-seven and fifty-eight may be obtained, of the average strength of rectified spirit."
It sounds like the liniment would feel something like Ben Gay, with ingredients that would give a cooling, tingling sensation.
10-09-2006, 08:02 AM
Another way to treat the inflammation was with sulfate of potash. It was a "refigerant", meaning it cooled a heated and swollen area.
CASE 2. J.G., no age given. Admitted 1-24-1862 evidently with feet and ankles swollen and painful, both knees swollen and painful, pulse not fast. By day 2 left knee still painful; ankle and right knee well; swelling generally disappearing except in the left knee; pulse regular. By day 3 left knee painful swollen and hot; other joints unaffected. By day 4 no pain. Day 5 pain and swelling gone. Returned to duty. Treated with light diet, sulphate of magnesia, nitrate of potash [my emphasis added]. Duration of symptoms: 5 days. Hospital 28th Mass.
Smart C. Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (1861-1865), Medical History, Part 3, Vol. 1, Washington: Government Printing Office; 1888; 770; 829-844
The quote was lifted from an article which examined rheum during the Civil War. It was published in the Journal of Civil War Medicine for the Society of Civil War Surgeons. Unfortuneately I forgot which issue, hence the bungled citation. The president of the Society provided me with an electronic copy.
RHEUMATIC DISEASES DURING THE U.S. CIVIL WAR: RHEUMATIC FEVER By Bonnie Brice Dorwart, M.D.
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