National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society

Neck pain and headaches

I have my first appointment with a Consultant in 3 weeks.

I was just wondering if it is usual with RA to have a stiff neck with pain that seems to go right up into my head. I also have stiffness, pain and a 'burning' in between my shoulder blades. I've had a 'feel' of my neck, and I am very sore right at the top of my spine up into where it goes into the skull.

The headaches are horrible and like no headache I've ever had before, and seem to go right into my face (although I also have pain in my jaw that could be causing this).

Could this be the RA?

Any advice would be gratefully received.

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7 replies

    Josie2
    Josie2

    Well i'm a newly diagnosed RA but didnt have any of your symptoms!

    Mine started out with fingers, wrists and occasional knees.

    I'm not saying it isnt RA as i'm a total newbie to this.

    I hope someone more knowledgeable to RA will be able to advise you better.

    Take care.

    This is a brilliant site and someone will reply with a better response than i have!
    Xxxx

    earthwitch
    earthwitch

    Its more usually osteoarthritis, possibly with bone spurs, or spondyloarthritis. RA doesn't usually affect the spine or neck like that.

    If you don't have an RA diagnosis though, it sounds a lot more like spondyloarthritis to me (RA's inflammatory arthritis cousin). That can also affect your jaw joint too. Do you also have low back pain, as that is a big part of spondy too.

    Make sure you tell the rheumatologist about any and all of the pain that you have, including mentioning any gut problems or skin rashes. That will all help get a diagnosis. It can sometimes help to download a picture of a body, and colour in the areas that hurt, then they can see what is going on.

    Hope you get answers from the rheumatlogist

    MAGSWAT
    MAGSWAT

    Thank you for your answers. Yes, I do have lower back pain too, as well as pain/stiffness in my fingers, wrists, elbows, knees and feet.

    I'll just have to wait and see what the Consultant says.

    I'll let you know.

    Judetheobscure
    Judetheobscure

    I have extracted the following from WebMed.com but several websites come up with the same thing.

    "Which joints does RA affect? The hands are almost always affected, although literally any joint can be affected with rheumatoid arthritis symptoms: knees, wrists, neck, shoulders, elbows, even the jaw."

    One of the worst flares I have experienced in terms of pain centred on the shoulders through the neck and along the jaw making ears and head ache. Pain in the jaw can make even speaking painful. And yes, sometimes a stiff neck will make it difficult to turn your head.

    However, checking with your Rheumatologist is always the best plan as it's easy to attribute every pain to RA. Hope the pain calms down soon.

    allanah
    allanah

    Hi mag swat
    I have had some experience with shoulder and neck pain. I have the symptoms exactly as you described. The first time it was due to RA in the shoulder and I had a steroid into the joint that fixed it well. After that it spread more to my back muscles and the Rheumy called it a thesis, inflammation where the ligament meets the bones and strong painkillers helped that. But then I got sever pains like you describe but with pain down my arma and pins and needles and that was as I got burst discs in my neck.
    However I don't want to worry you as this is only what happened to me. I would go to your GP if your Rheumy appointment is not soon, or ask the Rheumy if u see them soon.
    One doctor said it could not be caused by RA , one wasn't sure!!!!!! I think though RA is only where there is synovium that is inflamed.
    I had an MRI scan and he says I also have osteoarthritis in my spine but no more than I should have at my age and no spondyloarthritis. And I do get lower back and jaw pain, but no Sarthritis!
    So yeah get a check over, I find those hot bean bags a great help when it's all sore.and hollow fibre pillows!
    ,hope you find out soon, love A xx

    Tillytop
    Tillytop

    Hello MAGSWAT

    I'm sorry you are struggling so much and are in so much pain. I too get neck-related headaches and I can completely identify with your comment that they are like no other headache!

    As to whether they might be potentially RA related, my experience is that it is really not always easy to identify the cause/source of the pain. I have had RA for many years and I suspect that I do now have some degeneration of the joints in the neck, but I also think that, in my case, the underlying cause of my neck-related headaches is the problems I have with my shoulders. I know that when my shoulders are giving me trouble, I tend to tense up and this can affect the muscles in my shoulders, neck, ribs and back so it's actually very difficult to pinpoint the source of the problem. You mention problems with your jaw so that could also be having an effect.

    It is also easy to underestimate the effect of "referred" pain, caused by walking "carefully" on sore feet, knees etc. I remember, in the early days, having tremendous pain in my hips and being convinced that my hips were affected by the RA. But the consultant told me that he thought it was down to the way I was walking putting undue stress on my hips and that he thought it would ease once the RA was under better control and I could walk more easily. And he was absolutely right.

    When you have RA (or potential RA) it is easy to assume that everything is RA related and it can be very hard to "see the wood for the trees" MAGSWAT. I really do hope that, when you see the consultant, you can start to get some answers - and some help.

    Thinking of you.

    Tillyx

    nancy66
    nancy66

    i just had my neck x-rayed as i have upper neck pain and i found out i have a C1-C2 subluxation of 4mm, so don't ignore it !!!

    nancy

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