Ankylosing spondylitis is a disease that causes severe inflammation in the spinal joints. The term ankylosing refers to the stiffening or fusion of the bones while the term spondylitis is defined as an inflammatory disease affecting the spine. In severe cases of spondylitis, the joint damage can actually cause the spinal joints to fuse together.
Despite the fact that the condition has no known cure and the causes are unclear, treatment is available and has proven to be beneficial to patients.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Causes
Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the spinal column and causes joint damage. Classified as an autoimmune disease, ankylosing spondylitis causes the body’s immune system to attack healthy cells in and around the spinal facet joints. The causes of ankylosing spondylitis are not fully understood but the presence of the genetic marker, HLA_B27, is believed to increase the risk of developing the condition.
Moreover, Ankylosing Spondylitis is more common in men and generally develops in the late teenage years and early adulthood. It is common for the symptoms of this condition to begin mildly and be confused with other conditions. Additionally, this condition worsens as time goes on.
Doctors will initially perform typical back pain examinations and then move on to more specific measures. The doctor will ask about symptoms, activity, and review medical history, followed by asking the patient to perform movement tests and hands-on examinations. They will lastly order MRI and blood work in order to confirm or rule out the presence of other conditions or diseases.
Once the diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis has been reached, a treatment plan must be developed. Although ankylosing spondylitis is not curable, there are steps that can be taken in order to manage symptoms and slow down the rate of joint damage and deformity.
Conservative Therapy/Lifestyle Considerations
It is recommended for patients to pursue a course of conservative therapy to relieve pain inflammation. This includes:
- Staying active and getting regular low-impact exercise
- Eating a nutrient-rich anti-inflammatory diet
- Avoid tobacco products
- Focus on good posture throughout the day
Initial symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis are typically back pain and stiffness but some cases have also reported neck and/or hip pain. Symptoms are generally more apparent in the mornings or after long periods of inactivity. It is common for patients with this condition to experience bouts or flare-ups of symptoms before going into remission.
Ankylosing spondylitis patients also report symptoms in the following areas:
- Sacroiliac joint
- Attachment joints for tendons and ligaments in the spine and other joints
- Cartilage in the ribs and sternum
- Shoulder joints
Proper diagnosis is critical for effective treatment. If you are experiencing aches, pains, or stiffness that lasts longer than a week, see a doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.
Spine surgery is, for the most part, not recommended for patients with ankylosing spondylitis. However, in some cases of severe spinal instability and/or nerve compression, a fusion or stabilization procedure may be needed to help reduce nerve compression and back pain as well as address the rate of spinal deformity. Furthermore, there are cases in which ankylosing spondylitis causes hip problems in which a hip replacement procedure may become necessary depending on the patient.
Reach Out to BEST Health System Today
Ankylosing spondylitis can be a difficult condition to live with, but it can be successfully managed. If you are seeking to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle after being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, it is important to take a proactive approach to treatment. At BEST Health System, our multidisciplinary team has extensive experience in helping patients with a broad range of conditions find the relief they need for a good quality of life. From physical therapy to minimally invasive surgery, we’re committed to state of the art, patient centered care.
If you have experienced any of these symptoms or recieved a diagnosis and need treatment, BEST can help. Take the first step towards relief today.
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