Spinal Stenosis Caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis

The Swedish Neuroscience Institute specializes in treating spinal stenosis caused by rheumatoid arthritis.  Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of spaces in the spine that results in pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. When it is caused by rheumatoid arthritis, spinal stenosis can severely disrupt joint function.  Rheumatoid arthritis can inflame the soft tissue of the joints and lead to damage of joints, bones and ligaments.  Areas of the vertebrae with the greatest mobility, including the neck, are most affected.  Stenosis caused by rheumatoid arthritis can limit movement and cause neck, arm and leg pain. It also can cause weakness and make it difficult to walk.


Conservative Care

Treatment will depend on your particular condition. At Swedish, we start with non-surgical, or conservative, treatment. Conservative treatment could include one or more of the following:

  • Pain medication, including corticosteroid injections and nerve-block injections
  • Physical therapy to maintain motion and stabilize the spine
  • A brace to provide support and help restore mobility
  • Chiropractic treatment to restore normal spinal movement


If conservative care does not provide relief or slow the progression of spinal stenosis caused by rheumatoid arthritis, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

At Swedish, several types of surgery are available for this disease, including:

  • Laminectomy, surgery to remove the lamina, a bone at the back of each vertebra, from the affected area of the spine. This helps relieve pressure on your spinal cord or a nerve running out from your spinal cord.
  • Spinal fusion, a type of surgery used to join two or more vertebrae through the use of supplementary bone tissue and spinal instrumentation. Spinal fusion removes the damaged tissue and locks two or more vertebrae in place. This prevents unwanted movement that can lead to irritation and inflammation of the spinal nerves.

Your surgical team will create a personalized treatment plan based on your condition, a physical exam and imaging studies. 

To have a spinal condition assessed by a Swedish spine specialist, schedule a consultation online or call 206-320-BACK (2225).