How Do Doctors Treat Spinal Cord Compression Due to Rheumatoid Arthritis?

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If your rheumatoid arthritis has begun to affect your spine, resulting in spinal cord compression and the symptoms it brings with it, then it's time to start exploring your treatment options. Your first goal should be to keep your RA under control by taking your prescribed medications as directed. Then, you may want to talk to your physician about these other supportive therapies that can help alleviate spinal symptoms like numbness, stiffness, and weakness.


Your spinal cord compression symptoms are mostly due to inflammation in the joints between your vertebrae, which is brought on by your rheumatoid arthritis. Taking your immune therapy medications should help fight some of this inflammation, but to take care of the residual inflammation, you may want to begin using NSAID medications like naproxen or ibuprofen.

Talk to your doctor before you begin taking these drugs to ensure it's safe to combine them with your other medications. Also, make sure you only take the NSAIDS as needed. Taking them too often or in a larger dose than is recommended can lead to stomach irritation.

Physical Therapy

Especially if your RA has caused microfractures in your vertebrae due to the compression, your doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. They can show you exercises that will take pressure off of the affected vertebrae, which should help alleviate the pain and numbness you're experiencing.

Physical therapy can also be used to strengthen the muscles in your back, which will improve your posture. As a result, there will be less pressure on the affected vertebrae and joints, so your symptoms will improve. Note that at first, physical therapy may be difficult and painful, but if you stick with it, the exercises become easier and easier.

Chiropractic Care

Make an appointment with your chiropractor to have your spine adjusted. When your vertebrae are properly aligned, there won't be any excess pressure on the affected joints, so you won't experience so much pain. Your chiropractor can also adjust the spine to reduce pressure on spinal nerves, allowing them to transmit impulses properly. This, too, can help reduce your stiffness and pain.

When you have a lot of stiffness from a condition like RA, you don't always carry yourself with proper posture. Over time, you can cause your spine to be pushed back out of alignment. So getting regular chiropractic adjustments is important for maintaining your results. 

Nutritional Therapy

Consider working with a nutritional therapist who can help tweak your diet to better support your immune system. This may help to further alleviate your RA symptoms, including the inflammation that's contributing to your spinal compression. Anti-inflammatory foods, such as omega-3-rich salmon and flax seed, are often recommended for RA patients. Increasing your antioxidant intake by eating more fruits and veggies is another good strategy.


Your doctor will likely take x-rays to determine the extent of your spinal compression. If your case is very serious, he or she may recommend that you undergo surgery. This may be your best chance of long-term relief. There are several types of spinal decompression surgery, and which one is right for you will depend on the nature of your vertebral arthritis.

  • A discectomy removes part of the intervertebral disc to provide more space for the nerve that runs near it.
  • A foraminectomy removes part of the vertebral bone that's placing pressure on a nerve.
  • A corpectomy removes an entire vertebrae that's heavily eroded due to your RA.

Every case of spinal compression due to RA is different. Talk to your doctor to learn more about the extent of your compression and what your best treatment options are. For additional information, visit resources like