History of Arthritis


There is evidence that arthritis has been in this world since the beginning of civilization. This makes it one of the oldest diseases in the universe. It is an established fact that the dinosaurs suffered from arthritis and there is ample proof to show that our earliest ancestors also suffered from chronic aches and pains.

Arthritis in Dinosaurs

Remains of a herd of Iguanadons, small (three-ton) dinosaurs, around 85,000,000 BC,were found in Brussels, Belgium. From their remains, we find that they had ankle osteoarthritis (OA). This is a rare phenomenon, since not many dinosaurs show symptoms of primary OA, but many show symptoms of secondary OA from injuries or congenital defects.

Arthritis in Neanderthals

According to researchers, due to a difference in joint structure, dinosaurs that weighed several tons did not suffer from OA. Between 30,000 BC and 28,000 BC, a relative of modern man, the Neanderthal man, made his first appearance. According to his remains, individuals of this time developed secondary OA due to injuries and the difficulties of daily life.

Arthritis in Otzi the Mummy

In 4500 BC, arthritis was first discovered in human beings. It was seen in the skeletal remains of Native Americans of Tennessee and parts of modern-day Olathe, Kansas, USA. In fact, arthritis was evidenced in ancient Ötzi, a mummy in 3000 BC. Ötzi was the name given to a mummy, popularly known as the iceman, who crossed the Alps near the border of Italy and Austria. Though he wasn’t successful in his venture, the mummified remains of his body does, with the pouch of medicinal herbs that he carried with him, and his arthritic joints, which provide valuable information even 5000 years after he died.

Discovery of the wonder Willow Bark

Around 500 BC, a wonder drug, known as the willow bark came into prominence when it became known that it had the power to relieve pain. Willow Bark gained popularity when it was discovered that this bark could help relieve some of the aches and pains of arthritis because it contained a naturally-occurring compound called salicin, later known as acetylsalicylic acid – or aspirin. This wasn’t known till the early 1820s-about 2000 years later-when European scientists scientifically studied the contents of the willow bark and discovered salicin.

Medications for Arthritis

Once they isolated salicin, they found it was poisonous to the stomach. Then, 80 years later, in 1897, Felix Hoffman, an employee of Bayer Company, (a dye production company) learnt just how to isolate the compound and make it more pleasing to the stomach. Actually, Hoffman was trying to help his father out of his suffering, who was a patient of arthritis.

In 1899, Bayer Company trademarked Hoffman’s discovery with the name “Aspirin.” In 1890, European doctors found that by applying quinine, the lesions caused by lupus reduced significantly. By the 1940s, soldiers in the tropics took a synthetic drug, chloroquine to lessen their symptoms of arthritis.

Finally in 1999, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Cox-2 inhibitors to cure arthritis without much stomach damage. This has been a great boon for arthritics.

History of Rheumatoid Arthritis

The history of rheumatoid arthritis can be traced as far back as 4500 BC. The symptoms were first noted from the skeletal remains of Native Americans found in Tennnessee. Such symptoms bore strong similarities to that of rheumatoid arthritis that we know today.