Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a part of the class of arthritic disorders, which cause chronic inflammation of the spine. Ankylosing Spondylitis is a type of chronic, degenerative inflammation occurring in the spine and sacroiliac joints and also frequently affects other joints of the body.

Ankylosing Spondylitis is a type of chronic, degenerative arthritis usually occurring in the spine and sacroiliac joints and also frequently affects other joints of the body.[1] The etiology is not known, but hereditary factor is the common cause.

The term ankylosing means fusion and spondylitis means inflammation of the spinal joints. Inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joints leads to formation of bony growths in the spine which causes fusion of the vertebrae. This leads to pain and stiffness of the joints.[2] Ankylosing spondylitis is similar to other type of arthritic conditions such as spondyloarthritis, including psoriatic, colitic and reactive arthritis. It can occur in conjunction with these conditions or can occur independently. The symptoms of Ankylosing spondylitis are different in different patients and are never the same in 2 patients. There is difference in the pattern of pain, stiffness, inflammation and in the time frame of the exacerbation of the symptoms and the progression of the disease. In some patients, the disease becomes dormant and the pain subsides completely.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is commonly seen between ages of 15 and 30. However it can affect individuals who are younger or older than this age group. If it affects the children, it is referred to as juvenile ankylosing spondylitis. It affects men more than women.[3] Initially, symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis may be confined to the lower back or achy joints, which is commonly mistaken for ‘aches and pains’ and ‘growing pains’ in the younger people. Often the symptoms wax and wane and include the following:[4]

  • Pain and stiffness in the spine and sacroiliac joint area upon waking up in the morning.
  • Fatigue is a frequent symptom in Ankylosing Spondylitis due to the inflammation.
  • Patient may develop kyphosis.
  • Lower back pain causing sleep disturbance.
  • Radiating pain into the legs and groin.
  • Decrease in spinal movements.
  • Worsening pain at rest, especially in the morning.
  • Exercise alleviates the pain and stiffness.
  • Pain and stiffness in the, neck, shoulders, upper back, buttocks and hips.
  • Symptoms may exacerbate and then subside.
  • In acute cases, patient may experience feelings of illness, fatigue and weight loss.
  • Complications of Ankylosing Spondylitis are repeated eye inflammations, problems with CVS, respiratory system, nervous system and gastrointestinal system and subsequently an increase in kyphosis.[5]

Treatment for Ankylosing Spondylitis

  • Patient suffering from Ankylosing Spondylitis should adopt a healthy lifestyle comprising of balanced diet and exercise.
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis patients should avoid excess weight gain in order to put less stress on the spine.
  • Patient should always assume a good posture.
  • Sudden twisting and turning movements should be avoided.
  • A heat pack or a warm bath helps in alleviating pain and stiffness.
  • Patients should not use a pillow when sleeping in order to prevent further kyphosis and patients should sleep on a firm mattress.
  • Some exercises such as swimming are very beneficial in ankylosing spondylitis as swimming causes very little strain to the joints and spine.
  • Smokers should give up smoking.
  • Exercises should be done on a regular basis to maintain flexibility and back strength.
  • A blood test and x-rays help in confirming the diagnosis.
  • Physiotherapy should be done to maintain range of motion, flexibility, good posture, and for reducing stiffening of the spine.
  • NSAIDs such as ibuprofen help in pain and inflammation.
  • Steroid injections or oral steroids help in inflammation and pain.
  • In severe cases, surgery may be required to regain movement and alignment of the spine.[6]


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