Arthritis Headache – Location, Causes and Treatment

Headache is a very common problem faced by people who have arthritis. Two major forms of Arthritis namely; Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis are known to have caused Arthritis Headache by causing degenerative changes in the vertebral joints and affecting nerves passing through.

Location of Pain

Pain is usually felt at the back of head and neck. While it is most severe on one side of the head.

Symptoms

  • Severe pain at the back of head and neck
  • Neck stiffness
  • Inflamed, stiff, and swollen joints especially in the morning
  • Neurological signs if a nerve is involved
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Joint immobility
  • If arthritis involves Temporomandibular Joint, TMJ Headache is present.

Causes

  • Arthritis Headache is caused due to problems arising in the neck. There are two major types of arthritis that can cause Headaches.
  • Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. It breaks down the cartilage that is present at the end of the vertebrae where they form the facet joints in the spine. With the passage of time the bone is destroyed and forms bony spurs that make any sort of movement at the joint almost impossible. Constant friction leads to severe pain that radiates to the head and causes Arthritis and Headache associated with it. It most commonly involves fifth, sixth, and seventh vertebrae in the neck.
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disorder in which the body mistakenly attacks its own joints and cause Inflammation. Inflammation in the cervical region can cause a Pinched nerve that leads to Headaches.
  • Cervicogenic Headache is another form of Headache that is caused due to Arthritis.
Arthritis Headache

Diagnosis

  • Arthritis Headache is most commonly misdiagnosed as Migraines in people who have been having migraines throughout their life. As their symptoms resemble each other.
  • Properly detailed History taking is required. Any sort of joint pain and swelling should not be overlooked.
  • CT scan and MRI are done for an exact diagnosis of the case.
  • Neck X-ray might show calcified ligaments in Osteoarthritis which takes place during the healing process.

Management

Arthritis Headache can only be managed by decreasing the severity of symptoms of arthritis. It is not completely treatable and requires lifestyle modifications

Treatment:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicine such as NSAIDs can be used to lower the inflammation.
  • Acetaminophen can be used to get relief from acute Headaches.
  • DMARDs are given as prescription medication for Arthritis.
  • Physiotherapy is required if a nerve is involved and neurological symptoms present.

Home remedies:

  • Take plenty of rest.
  • Stay hydrated to combat dehydration.
  • Reduce Stress and Tension Headache is only triggered by anxiety and stress.
  • Try meditation, yoga, and other stress-relieving exercises.
  • Hot massages can also help with inflammation
  • Use a neck collar/ neck brace at night to avoid excessive movement and rotation at the neck.

When to see the Doctor?

  • Consult a doctor if you start having morning stiffness and immobility at joints.
  • If you’ve already been diagnosed with Arthritis, consult a doctor if your headache is persistent and you have to take analgesics more than 10 to 15 days a month.

FAQ

What is the underlying cause of Arthritis Headache?

Arthritis Headache is mainly caused due to different types of Arthritis which can be Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Psoriatic Arthritis.

Is the Headache completely treatable?

No, The Headache is not completely treatable but the severity of symptoms can be managed by taking medication on time and following the doctor’s advice.

What is the most common cause of Arthritis Headache?

Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of Arthritis Headache as it is the most common form of Arthritis. While Rheumatoid Arthritis most commonly present in any Age group.