Ankylosing spondylitis is an illness that causes stiffness and pain in the neck, back, and many times in the hips and the heel of the foot. The illness often begins by causing inflammation around the bones and joints of spine. Later, the illness may cause the bones and joints of the spine to fuse together. This joining of the joints stops them from performing their function and results in decreased movement of the spine.
Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis:
The most common symptom in the spinal pain — neck pain, back pain. Often symptoms may include:
●Symptoms that may start in early adulthood
●Symptoms appear slowly
●Usually symptoms are present for 3 months or greater
●The pain is often worse after resting, especially the first thing in the morning. People often feel as if they are “locked up” and have to get moving to feel better.
●Pain is often worse during bad weather, due to changes in barometric pressure
●Pain in important joints — hips or shoulders
●Swelling in other joints of the body — elbows, ankles and knees
●Feeling low energy and often tired (fatigue)
●Inflammation in part of the eye – this may cause eye pain and blurry vision.
●Fractures around the spinal cord – Ankylosing spondylitis can often makes lead to fractures of neck or back. This can occur even from a fall or small accident.
If not treated the person’s spine will often become less flexible. This results in difficulty in bending forward to put on shoes. The illness often will lead to a “hunchback” appearance over time.
●Inflammation of the intestines — may feel bloated (usually minor)
Testing for Ankylosing Spondylitis
There is not just one test for ankylosing spondylitis. In order to diagnose ankylosing spondylitis from your symptoms, performing an exam, and reviewing imaging tests (like X-rays) . We sometimes might perform blood tests, as well.
Treating Ankylosing Spondylitis
The goal of treatment of ankylosing spondylitis is to relieve the symptoms, starting with pain. There are new cutting edge treatments that may help with restoring the joints allowing a return to normal activities, and potentially stop the condition from causing further damage.
Working with a qualified physical therapist will often help increase function. During this time the physical therapist will work on your posture. This can stop a “hunchback” posture from forming.
There are many medications that can treat ankylosing spondylitis These basics include:
●NSAIDs (anti inflammatory medications) – This group of medicines includes ibuprofen ( aka Advil or Motrin) and often naproxen (aka Aleve and Naprosyn). NSAIDs will often help relieve minor pain and some stiffness. Often these medications may need to be supplemented with additional pain relieving medications and treatments.
●Other medicines – There are other medicines that can help treat symptoms and keep ankylosing spondylitis from getting worse. Your doctor or nurse will decide which medicines are best for you.
There have been many exciting case reports of improvements with the use of stem cell like products (regenerative medicine). Case reports have even show that these advanced treatments have helped some with severe ankylosing spondylitis.
It is very important that if the bones in your spine have fused together enough, you may be at risk of serious neck and back injury. It is important to determine if this is the case and take precautions until treatment can start.
If you or a loved one is dealing with ankylosing spondylitis and needs help reach out to our office by clicking here.