What is the Connection Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Back Pain?

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  • Written By: Erin J. Hill
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 January 2020
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The primary connection between rheumatoid arthritis and back pain is that arthritis of any type is a source of pain in the back and other areas of the body. Arthritis can cause soreness, stiffness, and swelling in the spine and surrounding area. There are varying degrees of pain caused by this condition, with some patients experiencing debilitating pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis and back pain affect the spine and surrounding area by causing swelling around the vertebrae. This swelling is often caused by fluid buildup around each joint and can lead to pain and stiffness. Symptoms can be mild to severe, with some patients losing mobility without the help of a wheelchair, cane, or walker. This can be controlled with medication and sometimes additional therapies.

The most common treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and back pain is prescription medication. These usually include some sort of anti-inflammatory drug along with pain medication to alleviate discomfort. Alternative therapies have also proven beneficial for arthritis pain and include massage, chiropractic care, acupressure, acupuncture, and dietary changes. Each of these has proven effective for some individuals. Patients should discuss treatment options with their doctor or alternative health practitioner.


Some other conditions can have the same symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and back pain. A diagnosis may require a doctor to perform X-rays and additional diagnostic procedures to confirm arthritis. In many cases, symptoms are not localized in the back and may cause pain and swelling in the joints of the knees, hands, and arms. This can make back pain related to rheumatoid arthritis easier to diagnose.

There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but symptoms can be managed through proper medication and exercise. Strengthening the surrounding muscles can reduce pain and swelling and also lead to stronger bones. Some patients have discovered that taking supplements such as vitamin D and calcium can also reduce the pain associated with arthritis.

Patients who believe they may be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis should consult a trained physician. Without proper guidance and treatment, the condition may continue to worsen and pain become severe. There is also a chance that symptoms could be caused by another condition which may require treatment different than that required for arthritis. For this reason, patients should not self-treat with over the counter pain medication if pain persists for more than a week or if it becomes severe despite having no injury to the area.



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