Arthritis has been stereotyped with “old age condition”, causing pain, fatigue and weakness in the affected muscles and joints.
There are several types of arthritis. Some can be serious and life-threatening due to their effects on the body. One such type of arthritis is ankylosing spondylitis (AS). This mostly affects the spine, causing it to become inflamed and results in stiffness and pain from the neck down to the buttocks.
Causes and Symptoms
Ankylosing spondylitis is not the type you can get as a result of an unhealthy lifestyle, but rather it is strongly believed to be genetically inherited. AS has been associated with a gene known as HLA-B27. But studies have shown that the presence of the gene does not always equate to developing the condition as there are people who possess the gene yet do not acquire AS.
Ankylosing spondylitis has been shown to occur more often in men than in women.
Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis start with fatigue. As the spine becomes inflamed, stiffness will be experienced in the neck, then the lower back down to the upper part of the buttocks. The pain is progressive, at times worse in the morning.
Left untreated, AS will lead to fusion of the spinal joints or ankylosis. The pain is significantly reduced and can disappear altogether. The affected spine, however, is now totally immobile while the fused vertebrae are brittle and can fracture when subjected to trauma. Ankylosing spondylitis has been shown to affect other vital organs such as the lungs, heart, and kidneys.
Once inflammation has set in, the most effective way to treat AS is with anti-inflammatory drugs. Some doctors also prescribe cortisone injections for short term relief, as prolonged use could lead to harmful side effects. In severe cases, orthopedic surgery can be considered.
There are several ways to help alleviate the symptoms. When sleeping, a firm mattress is recommended. Pillows are discouraged as the condition affects parts of the neck. Bracing can also be helpful in preventing further spinal deformity. Finally, ergonomic desks and chairs might need to be introduced into the workplace so as not to put more stress on the spine.
AS and Physiotherapy
Aside from pain medications and lifestyle changes, physiotherapy is also an integral part of ankylosing spondylitis treatment. Exercises can relieve pain, improve function and mobility of the spine, ease morning stiffness, correct postural deformities, and enrich the quality of life of the patients. Physiotherapy exercises include strengthening and flexibility routines as well as breathing techniques.
Ankylosing spondylitis can cause major setbacks in your life but it’s not a source of concern if detected and treated early. It’s also important to make sure your medical insurance includes coverage for this condition. To find out how to cope with this form of arthritis, consider a free consultation with one of our physiotherapists. We’ll walk you through what and how to manage and in some cases help slow the onset.