The Reasons Behind Ankylosing Spondylitis
By Orthopaedic and Neurology Clinic
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. Ankylosing means stiff or rigid, spondyl means spine, and it is refers to inflammation. The disease causes inflammation of the spine and large joints, resulting in stiffness and pain. The disease may result in erosion at the joint between the spine and the hip bone. This is called the sacroiliac joint. It may also cause bony bridges to form between vertebrae in the spine, fusing those bones. Bones in the chest may also fuse.
Ankylosing spondylitis affects men more often than women. Signs and symptoms typically begin in early adulthood. Inflammation can also occur in other parts of the body — most commonly, the eyes.
What are some symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis typically appear between the ages of 17 and 45 but may develop in younger children or older adults. Some people have persistent pain, while others experience milder symptoms. Symptoms may flare up (worsen) and improve (go into remission) off and on. If you have ankylosing spondylitis, you may experience:
“Ankylosing spondylitis symptoms may gradually worsen as you age. The condition is rarely disabling or life-threatening. Still, symptoms like joint pain may interfere with your ability to do the things you love. Early interventions can ease inflammation and pain. A combination of physical activity and medications can help.”
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What types of diagnosis?
We highly recommend seeking professional help instead of self diagnosis in order to identify the source of the issue and to receive faster recovery.
During the physical exam, our Spine Specialist might ask you to bend in different directions to test the range of motion in your spine. He might try to reproduce your pain by pressing on specific portions of your pelvis or by moving your legs into a particular position. You also may be asked to take a deep breath to see if you have difficulty expanding your chest.
X-rays allow doctors to check for changes in joints and bones, though the visible signs of ankylosing spondylitis might not be evident early in the disease.
An MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to provide more-detailed images of bones and soft tissues. MRI scans can reveal evidence of ankylosing spondylitis earlier in the disease process.
Possible treatment methods?
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, your age, and your general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and stiffness, prevent deformities, and maintain as normal a lifestyle as possible. Treatment may include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications , to reduce pain and inflammation
- Tumor-necrosis-factor blockers (biologic medications), to reduce inflammation and swelling
- Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to decrease inflammation and control AS
- Short-term use of corticosteroids, to reduce inflammation
- Short-term use of muscle relaxants and pain relievers, to relieve severe pain and muscle spasms
- Surgery to replace a joint, place rods in the spine, or remove parts of the thickened and hardened bone
- Maintaining of proper posture
- Regular exercise, including exercises that strengthen back muscles
Physical therapy is an important part of treatment and can provide a number of benefits, from pain relief to improved strength and flexibility. Our physical therapist can design specific exercises for your needs. To help preserve good posture, you may be taught:
- Range-of-motion and stretching exercises
- Strengthening exercises for abdominal and back muscles
- Proper sleeping and walking positions