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How is Rheumatoid Arthritis of the Spine Treated?

By Sarah Sullins
Updated May 17, 2024
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An auto-immune disorder that causes swelling of the joints, rheumatoid arthritis of the spine is typically treated with anti-inflammatory drugs that can help to reduce the amount of inflammation in the affected areas. Physical and water therapies are also sometimes prescribed by a doctor for this condition. If diagnosed early, surgery may be also helpful to treat severe rheumatoid arthritis of the spine.

When the immune system attacks the body’s tissues, causing them to become inflamed, it is known as rheumatoid arthritis. The tissue and joints that are attacked begin to deteriorate. Swelling occurs around the joints and many times it is very painful. If rheumatoid arthritis is not treated, the ligaments, muscles, bones, and cartilage in the affected area will also be destroyed.

Several different symptoms may occur with rheumatoid arthritis of the spine. A person might experience blackouts, weakness in his arms or legs, balance issues, problems with urination, and trouble walking correctly. He will most likely experience pain in the area of the arthritis. Early symptoms may include fatigue, weak muscles, or a low fever.

There are two areas generally affected by rheumatoid arthritis of the spine. One is related to the cervical spine, or the neck, which is the area most commonly affected by rheumatoid arthritis. The other region is in the lower back, known as the lumbar spine, which is less frequently affected. Each specific area may require different types of exercises and physical therapy for treatment.

Diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis of the spine must be done by a doctor. He will generally take an x-ray of a person’s spine to be able to determine whether rheumatoid arthritis exists. After diagnosis, the physician usually prescribes anti-inflammatory medications. These drugs can reduce the amount of inflammation that occurs around the spine, reduce pain, and slow down the deterioration of the joints.

Sometimes, a doctor may have a patient take part in physical therapy or water therapy. Maintaining motion can help relieve some of the pressure and pain that is associated with rheumatoid arthritis. In older patients, water therapy, or exercises done in a swimming pool, may be an easier and safer way to exercise.

Surgery may also be used, if the rheumatoid arthritis of the spine is caught early enough. Spinal surgery can only be done if there is only a little damage done by the disease. In this procedure, nerves are typically decompressed and vertebrae are fused back together. This type of surgery can be risky for some people, however, and can also be very expensive.

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