I went to see a rheumatologist because my regular doctor thinks I have rheumatoid arthritis. She ordered X-rays of my neck. Is this typical? What does it tell them?

In recent years studies have shown an increasing number of patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) who have neck instability. Joint and capsular erosion from the same disease process can lead to significant neurologic problems later.

A doctor who suggests or orders cervical spine X-rays is forward thinking and up to date on this issue. Finding the problem early can prevent future disability. Treatment will take into consideration this extra problem if it's present.

Even if no changes are present, a baseline X-ray is good to have. Future X-rays can show if there's been any progression or worsening of the disease. Type and degree of changes can be seen, once again directing treatment.