You may have heard of rheumatoid arthritis causing pain in the knee, wrist, hands and feet, especially in the mornings. But did you know rheumatoid arthritis can also occur in the cervical spine? Some people call it “arthritis of the neck”.
The cervical spine is a pivot joint below the head that allows your head to rotate, connects the head to the spine, and is the exit point from which nerves start radiating to peripheral parts.
How can rheumatoid arthritis affect the cervical spine?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system (which is supposed to attack foreign bodies) mistakenly attacks other healthy body parts, especially joints. When the system attacks the neck’s joints, it causes symptoms and deformity of the cervical spine.
It shows common symptoms, such as tingling pain, neck stiffness, etc. However, if the signs are ignored and rheumatoid arthritis treatment is delayed, it causes more severe symptoms and aggravation of cervical RA.
What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
- Pain and swelling around the neck
- Neck stiffness, especially in the mornings
- Pain radiating to the shoulders and arms due to nerve root compression
- Cervicogenic headaches
- Compression of a vertebral artery leading
- Loss of balance or difficulty walking
- Loss of control of bladder and bowels
How common is rheumatoid arthritis in the neck?
Arthritis of the neck is rare, particularly given new ‘medical’ treatments that prevent rheumatoid arthritis from causing too much destruction or deformity.
What are the treatment modalities for cervical rheumatoid arthritis management?
There are multiple treatment modalities for cervical rheumatoid arthritis management. Dr Sherief thoroughly reviews your diagnosis and tailors a rheumatoid arthritis treatment plan for your neck. Treatments may include:
- Medications – Over-the-counter medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help to treat mild to moderate pain and inflammation and slow the progression of RA disease. Typically, rheumatoid arthritis is managed as part of a multi-disciplinary team, including rheumatologists, physiotherapists and more.
- Surgery – Fortunately, surgery is now rarely required but typically involves some form of decompression and fusion – either approaching the spine from the front or back, or both.
Dr Sherief Elsayed is a highly experienced spine surgeon proficient at performing MISS spine surgeries. The surgery’s goals include nerve decompression, relief of pain, and spinal stability.
Rheumatoid arthritis treatment can vary from person to person, depending on complexity and age. However, seeking early cervical spine treatment can reduce the length of treatment with the increased advantage of a quicker recovery.
If you have had a neck ache for more than 2 weeks or have any other significant neck symptoms, visit Dr Sherief Elsayed for a consultation and treatment.