Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that affects the synovial tissue which lines joints and tendons. The craniocervical junction is made up exclusively of synovial joints and ligaments and especially vulnerable to the inflammatory process of RA. The chronic inflammation of RA leads to loss of ligamentous restriction and erosion of the bony structures and results in craniocervical instability (CCI). This is a case report of an 80-year-old woman who had been diagnosed with seropositive RA two decades ago presented with head dropping and losing balance while walking for several months. Radiographic images of the cervical spine showed RA-related features of instability in the form of atlantoaxial instability, cranial settling and subaxial subluxation. Since physical therapy and acupuncture previously failed to provide a substantial, long-lasting outcome, the patient sought chiropractic care for her condition. The chiropractic regimen consisted of upper thoracic spine mobilization/adjustment, electrical muscle stimulation of the cervical extensors, home exercises and neck bracing. She regained substantial neck muscle strength, gaze angle and walking balance following a 4-month chiropractic treatment, although cervical kyphosis persisted. The current study aims to provide basic knowledge of CCI associated with RA and ability to modify a treatment program to accommodate the needs of patients with coexisting red flags.
Keywords: Cervical spine; chiropractic; craniocervical instability (CCI); head dropping; rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
2021 AME Case Reports. All rights reserved.
Conflict of interest statement
Conflicts of Interest: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form (available at http://dx.doi.org/10.21037/acr-20-131). The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.