Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Affect the Spine?

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neck xray

You can’t get Rheumatoid Arthritis in the spine, can you?

(The funny noises in my neck say yes. Let’s see what the funny-sounding medical words say about RA in the spine…)

The only books on Rheumatoid Arthritis that I read are ones from “legitimate” sources such as recognized university hospitals or M.D.’s who specialize in rheumatology. But, there has been a problem: the experts often disagree.

A chief area of disagreement is which joints that can be affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis. Most authors include their list. However, the different lists do not match one another or the facts that I have learned firsthand.

Rheumatoid Arthritis in the spine is one prominent example. I have read several lists which exclude the spine. I have also talked to doctors who believe that the spine cannot be affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I am only reporting the RA spine facts as I read them

Well, I don’t imagine that I am equipped to argue with experts. All that I can do is report the facts as I learn them. Here are some facts about Rheumatoid Arthritis in the spine.

The doctors who write a site called Spine Universe describe in detail the manner in which RA affects spinal joints. They say that the neck is usually the first area of the spine to be attacked by RA. An excellent illustration accompanies their clear description of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the cervical spine.

Let me quote to you a report from WebMD’s emedicine since I cannot say it any more clearly myself:

RA activity in the cervical spine begins early, with 83% of patients in prospective studies developing anterior atlantoaxial subluxation within 2 years of disease onset. Activity in the cervical spine progresses clinically and radiologically in tandem with the peripheral-joint involvement. In fact, the severity of the peripheral erosive damage is strongly correlated with the degree of structural damage in the cervical spine.”

83% of people with RA have involvement in the atlantoaxial joint within 2 years. The atlantoaxial joint is between the first and second vertebrae in the neck: C-1 and C-2. That is the joint which caused the predicament of Nicole Bradshaw that I reported here last week.

Joints in the spine affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis become unstable. Damage to supporting tissues can cause vertebrae to slip in a process called spondolisthesis. The result can be pain due to pressure on nerves caused by the slipped vertebra. The spinal cord can be compressed which can cause a wide range of symptoms.

Although it is more common in the cervical spine, the thoracic and lumbar spine can also be affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is not too difficult to find examples of this in medical journals. After one study, the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery stated, “We submit that subcervical rheumatoid spondylitis is commoner than is generally believed, though less common than rheumatoid involvement of the cervical spine.”

Question: Why can I find this information with just a few hours of research when some M.D.’s are confused about it? Is it because I have no prejudice against the existence of Rheumatoid Arthritis in the spine? Thank God for RA in my spine, I guess, which enables me to shine the light on the truth.

Check out this essential little book about RA and the spine: Death by Rheumatoid Arthritis: Possible and Preventable

Read more about how RA affects the spine!

Recommended reading:

Edited: Mar 22, 2017, to update a link that had changed.

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Kelly Young. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 17th, 2009 at 8:38 am and is filed under The Real Rheumatoid Disease. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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