Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes swelling and pain in joints throughout the body. It can affect the facet joints in the spine.
The paired facet joints run all along the spine. They connect with the bony bumps that a person can feel when they run their hands down their back. Facet joints support movement and flexibility in the spine.
RA-related inflammation in the facet joints can cause back pain. In some cases, extended inflammation can destroy the facet joints. As a result, the vertebrae become less stable.
Instability in the spine can cause a vertebra to slip out of place, which usually means that the upper vertebra slides over the lower one. Doctors call this spondylolisthesis.
If slipped vertebrae put pressure on the sciatic nerve in the lower back, it can cause sciatica.
Sciatica can cause:
- difficulty walking
- loss of bowel or bladder function
- loss of coordination
- pain that radiates to the arms and legs
However, unstable or severely damaged vertebrae can also press on other vital parts of the body. If left untreated, cervical spine RA can have severe consequences, including:
Anyone with RA must seek treatment for their back pain to prevent further damage from occurring.