Arthritis of the cervical spine, or rheumatoid arthritis, is a chronic and inflammatory autoimmune disease that usually affects the small joints all over the body. The disease causes inflammation of the joints, which with time get swollen and stiff, causing pain. If the disease is not diagnosed and treated on time, it can affect not only the joints but also the surrounding components of the bones, completely destroying the area beyond the joints. Although it can occur at any age, it usually begins after 40, and mostly in women.
Rheumatoid arthritis also affects the cervical part of the spine causing back pain. Once the cervical spine is affected it will cause various signs and symptoms. The earliest symptom is pain, which results from the overall joint inflammation. As the disease progresses, the signs and symptoms tend to get worse. Except for pain, there is also stiffness of the neck, making it difficult to move the neck in different positions. The inflammatory process can cause cervical subluxation of the neck, which leads to spinal cord compression. The compression of the spinal nerves leads to sensation problems, muscle weakness, breathing problems, etc.
Changes in the bowel or bladder control can also occur, leading to bladder or bowel incontinence. The signs and symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis vary in severity. The periods of active disease are altered with the periods of relative remission.