What is Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)?
AS is a disease which causes inflammation and pain in the spine and other joints such as the shoulder, hips, knees, ankles and the between your sternum and ribs.
Don’t get confused between AS and the seperate terms. Spondylitis alone simply means inflammation of the spine; ankylosis alone means fusion of two bones (mainly your spine).
How Ankylosing Spondylitis can affect my back?
AS causes inflammation outside the joint where the ligaments and tendons are attached to the bone, restricting movement. AS usually starts from the sacro-iliac joint – a small joint which lies between the sacrum and the pelvis, then spread to the vertebral joints of the spine. It usually affects the small joints between the vertebrae of the spine, causing pain and stiffness and thus, lead to restriction of movement.
What causes Ankylosing Spondylitis?
The main cause of AS is still unknown, however occasionally there is a hereditary factor involved, as more than one family member can have this condition.
Since AS presents without a specific cause, it presents differently from many common back pains. It does not seem to be caused by particular jobs or movements and is usually not the result of particular injuries, infections or other medical conditions.
What are the symptoms for Ankylosing Spondylitis?
- Early morning back pain and/or stiffness which improves with movement.
- Back pain and/or stiffness which came on gradually throughout the day.
- Pain/stiffness improves after exercise and is worse after rest.
- Back pain that disturbes your sleep.
- Continuous occurrence of the above symptoms for more than 3 months.
- Pain is relieved for a time after a shower, bath or heat treatments.
- Inflammation of the iris, within the eye. This may include pain in the eye or brow region, pain associated with exposure to light, blurred vision or a reddened eye.
How is Ankylosing Spondylitis Diagnosed?
If your Physiotherapist suspects you to have ankylosing spondylitis, you will be referred to your Physician for further examination including blood tests and possibly imaging such as X-rays, CT scan or an MRI. If the results showed indicate possible ankylosing spondylitis, you are generally referred to see a Rheumatologist who specialises in diagnosing the condition.
How Ankylosing Spondylitis is Treated?
Your Physician and Rheumatologist may prescribe medications to help control the inflammatory part of the disease. While medications do not cure ankylosing spondylitis, they do relieve pain and stiffness, allowing you to continue with normal activities.
Since AS is incurable, what happens If I just leave it be?
If AS is not managed well, it can lead to permanent stiffening of the spine, as new bone can grow around the spine, which results in the bones fusing together and limits movement. This will also results in a unique characteristic of stooped posture. As well as seeing your Physician or Rheumatologist for medications, your physiotherapist plays an important role in helping you manage your ankylosing spondylitis.
What Roles of Physiotherapy in Managing AS?
Your physiotherapist will use an specific range of assessments and treatment tools to reduce your
symptoms, restoring movement and muscle function, as well as returning you to your desired activities. Your physiotherapist will provide you with an individualised exercise programme to help you to manage your condition.
If you have any concerns or have some specific questions regarding Ankylosing Spondylitis, contact us for advise.