Many people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have neck pain and stiffness as one of their symptoms. In addition to finding the right treatment to reduce RA symptoms, there are at-home care strategies that can make pain and stiffness more manageable.
You may notice your neck pain is worse after waking up or after you have been sitting in the same position for a while. Having a heating pad readily available can make it easier to loosen-up a stiff neck. Try keeping a heating pad by your bed for when you wake up. Small heat packs that heat up once the seal is broken, such as those used as hand warmers, are good to keep around the house or inside your desk. Another option for prompt heat therapy are creams that warm up on contact.
Try to prevent your neck from becoming stiff by attempting to keep a neutral position. If you work at a computer or on a mobile device, you will likely need to raise the device up so you can work without having to bend your neck down.
Different types of pillows can work well for giving your neck support while you sleep or when you are sitting. When you are in bed, you will likely find having your head and neck elevated can prevent your neck from becoming stiff in the morning. Stiffness can be more of a problem if the area is not only inflamed, but experiences swelling. Elevating your head and neck can minimize the amount of swelling you experience as you sleep.
In addition to elevating your head and neck, you should incorporate a pillow that specifically supports your neck. This will be trial-and-error since all pillows are shaped differently and will offer different amounts of support. A neck roll pillow is likely the best option, especially if you are a side sleeper. People who sleep on their back might benefit from pillows with contours to cradle both the head and neck. A neck roll or travel pillow can also work well if you have a desk chair with a high back or sit in a recliner at home.
Think About Steroid Injections
Steroid injections are generally reserved for people with severe, unrelenting neck pain that is not responding to their RA medications or conservative treatments. One of the major benefits of steroid injections is they target the site of inflammation in your neck with fewer risks of systemic side effects, like when you take oral steroids. Steroid injections can also be valuable for people with RA who have evidence of damage in their neck from the disease.
One of the risks associated with severe RA affecting the neck is the ability for the disease to destroy the supporting structures, possibly causing the vertebrae to compress nerves or the spinal cord. Incorporating steroid injections will be at your doctor's discretion, because over time, injections can also cause weakening of the bone.
RA medications are not always enough to alleviate pain and stiffness in your neck. Sometimes at-home care can make it easier to prevent pain and stiffness and manage it, if it occurs.
For more information, contact a company like Physical Therapy at ACAC.