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Rheumatism, umorea

The word in Spanish found in the majority of the places to refer to rheumatism is reuma or reúma (Apodaca, Ribera Alta, Valdegovía-A; Amorebieta-Etxano, Carranza-B; Bidegoian-G; Lekunberri, Lezaun, Obanos, Tiebas, San Martín de Unx-N). In Murchante (N), reuma is used interchangeably in the masculine and feminine gender.[1]. In Aoiz (N), they call it reuma and reumatismo.

Causes of rheumatism

In Apodaca (A), rheumatism is put down to damp, to having worked with water when young. In Lekunberri (N), to constantly working in cold water. In the case of women, to hand washing clothes and using icy water. In Lezaun (N), they say it is caused by getting soaked.

In Bedarona (B), they believe that it more frequently appears with the damp and cold; they believe that a lot of people suffer from rheumatism in that town due to its proximity to the sea.

In Modeda (A), rheumatic pain is considered to be triggered by changes in the weather, damp, cold and the arrival of the winter; it is also sometimes attributed to genetics, to old injuries, badly cured breaks or cracks, along with wear and tear of the bones and the body in general.

In Carranza (B), the general opinion is that rheumatic processes get worse in winter due to the cold and damp, and improve in summer with the heat and the physical exercise when carrying out the work that is typical of the season.

In that same town in Bizkaia, thanks to information from doctors, they are aware of the relationship between rheumatism and certain eating habits, such as having too many pork products. In fact, people suffering from rheumatism are recommended not to eat pork (Apodaca, Agurain, Mendiola-A) or drink alcohol (Agurain, Mendiola). In Muskiz (B), they advise avoiding food that causes uric acid and drinking loads of water. In Bidegoian (G), care should be taken with their diet and sufferers should eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.

Remedies to cure rheumatism

Numerous remedies were found to treat rheumatic pain and which were all very different in nature. This preponderance of practices may be due to the fact that the only thing they achieve is to relieve the symptoms without managing to cure the disease. The people surveyed were aware that they are only pain relievers.

The most common remedy is possibly the application of heat. Rubs, going to thermal baths and use of vapours are related to that practice. There are also several remedies based on plant products and which are administered either as herbal teas or decoctions. Garlic, one of the most commonly used resources for any type of illness, is also considered effective to deal with rheumatic diseases. Something similar happens with the application of nettle-based methods. A specific treatment consisted of rubs using dormouse fat or of other animals.

One of the commonest remedies is wearing copper bracelets or carrying a potato or chestnut in a pocket. As with the majority of diseases, there have been people believing that they can be cured or relieved by visiting the chapel.

Lumbago, gerriko mina

The most popular way of describing lumbago is kidney pain (Amézaga de Zuya, Pipaón-A; Carranza-B; Aoiz-N).

In Apodaca (A), they call it kidney, rib or back pain. In Moreda (A), lumbago, kidney pain, rib pain, kidney problems, lower back pain and backache. In Obanos (N) lumbago, “rib pain” or “pulling a muscle”. In Muskiz (B) and Tiebas (N), just lumbago.

Causes of lumbago

Lumbago is basically attributed to different factors: physical strain, particularly related to lifting heavy loads, bad postures and chills.

The importance of sharp physical strain in suffering this problem was reported in Berganzo, Valdegovía (A); Abadiano (B); Bidegoian (G); Obanos, San Martín de Unx and Tiebas (N).

Remedies for lumbago

The traditional remedies used to cure lumbago are very similar to those previously described to relieve rheumatic pain. They are mentioned below.

Nowadays, many of them have fallen out of use and some of them, such as applying heat, continue to be even recommended by healthcare staff. Doctors have now become more important and people go and see them each time this problem appears. In Murchante (N),, they explained that at least since the 1970s, people have gone to the doctor and followed their recommendations. The use of ointments and other pharmaceutical products is frequent (Amézaga de Zuya, Bajauri-A; Telleriarte-G; Lezaun, Obanos-N).


Sciatica is referred to as ciática in the Spanish-speaking towns or also aciática (Lezaun N); something very similar happens in the Basque-speaking ones: ziatika (Astigarraga G; Eugi N), aziatika (Hondarribia G).

In Allo (N), they know that sciatica is pain affecting one of the legs, usually in the buttocks and thighs and that it hurts when that part of the body is cold or inactive for a while. In Mendiola (A), it is associated with rheumatism, but affects the hips, legs and feet.

In Lezaun, aciática is said to be due to overexertion and in Tiebas (N), they explained that the sciatic nerve has been touched when giving an injection. In Apodaca (A), they added that it usually mainly affects the elderly.

In Lekunberri (N). sciatica is put down to bad air, aire txarren bategatik edo... In Abadiano (B), they recognised that sciatica and lumbago is often confused. In Moreda (A), the explained that it is worse than rheumatism due to the great pain caused, along with a type of tingling and jabbing.

As regards the remedies, heat is considered to be the most appropriate to treat this problem.

Rickets. Erkintasuna

The surveys reported two different situations as regards rickets. On the one hand, the disease itself, which most people agree was a very rare condition and difficult to cure or even there were no cases. People with rickets would be identified by the out-of-proportion size of their head and abdomen. A very different thing is the more or less extreme thinness of some children when they are born or in infancy, which is colloquially known as “being rickety”.

  1. It should be noted that the two forms are accepted: reuma and reúma and their grammatical gender is ambigious.