All those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) complain of chronic pain that makes their day-to-day life difficult. For many this pain comes in the form of migraines and headaches. According to a report, about 67 percent of people with severe headaches or migraines also have some chronic pain conditions, including RA.
In RA, body’s immune system attacks body’s joints and tissues. Sometimes, it may even attack the vertebrae in the neck. It’s knows as cervical spine. There isn’t sufficient research on the link between RA and headaches. However, many experts believe that inflammation in cervical spine is enough to generate pain signals in the nerves of the neck and affect the blood supply to the brain. This can trigger headaches and pain.
Rheumatologist Dona Ruderman, MD, a professor of medicine at Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago notes, “We all rarely think about this headache link,” with RA. He does acknowledge that people with RA who’ve involvement of their cervical spine-in the neck area- may experience headaches related to RA.
The biggest problem faced by all those who have rheumatoid arthritis is how to successfully manage headache pain, should it occur. Depending upon your treatment plan for RA, you may be taking a small pharmacy of medications. It’s important to avoid interactions between the medications you take for your RA and anything you would like to take to deal with your headache.
“If you go the easy way and start popping ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen besides the prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, you’re simply overdoing it,” warms Dr. Dona Ruderman. Many of these medications can interact and may cause many side-effects that can harmful to gastrointestinal tract and kidneys. He suggests acetaminophen for tackling average headache.
There are steps that one can take to properly manage RA and migraine or headache pain. We’re discussing them in detail:
More Exercise, Less Stress
Stress is the biggest trigger for headaches and migraines. Living with RA can cause anxiety, stress, and even depression. Exercises can act as a good stress reliever. They can help alleviate stress and the best ones are bicycling, walking, and tai chi. Exercises can also help ease muscle tension around your neck and cervical spine. This could help reduce of getting a migraine. Need another reason to get moving? In fact, inactivity is the biggest contributor that makes RA symptoms worse.
Consider your stress level
Another reason why people with RA also have headaches is stress. It’s important to use stress management techniques, deep breathing, appropriate exercises, or meditation, to cut back on headaches.
Check Your Meds
If you take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) a little too often, then you need to slow down immediately. Too much leaning on OTC analgesics-everyday pain relievers- can actually lead to “rebound” headaches. If you’re taking OTC medications daily and not finding any relief, try to cut back and find a new approach to deal with your situation.
Independent of RA, you can get migraines and headaches if you don’t drink enough fluids each day. You probably know how important it is to take care of yourself, but even the most dedicated people can sometime fail to drink water when their life gets buys.
Focus on Omega-3s
Fish oil comes with so many health benefits, though in most cases the scientific evidence is limited. In a recent study in 2014 it was found that all those with early-stage RA who took fish oil capsules daily for 6 months, in addition to getting the standard treatment, experienced a greater reduction in symptoms. And most of them were able to easily quit using NSAIDs for pain relief. Mackerel, herring, tuna, and salmon are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. They are also vital for blood flow and brain health. The health benefits of eating good quality fatty fish are supported by more evidence than are the benefits of taking various fish oil supplements.
Question your RA treatment
If you’ve been taking Tylenol continuously for days in a row and you feel your headache is sticking around, go ahead and discuss this with your rheumatologist to make sure it’s not a side effect of your RA treatment or some new symptom (especially if you suspect that your neck or shoulder might be affected by RA).
Get enough sleep
All those who suffer from stiffness and joint pain that people with RA experience can interrupt sleep. If you don’t get high-quality sleep, it can contribute to headache pain. The best way to go is to cut possible headache triggers, such as caffeine found in chocolate, tea and coffee. It’s also helpful to get a deep, quality sleep and wake up feeling rested. It’s also helpful if you avoid cigarette smoke. For some even secondhand smoke can trigger headaches.
Getting more exercise, managing your stress levels, and monitoring the use of supplements and medications may lead to fewer migraines and headaches.
For many with rheumatoid arthritis, cervical spine inflammation may lead to headaches and migraines.
Joint pain can also interrupt sleep, which automatically increases your ris for migraines or even simple headaches. Try to cut headache triggers and get regular exercise to get deep, quality sleep.
Rheumatoid arthritis can be tough to handle at times-you certainly don’t need a headache on the top of everything else you’re struggling to manage. If you feel your headaches have ruined your quality of life and are not responding to medications, it’s perfect time to discuss this with your doctor.