Back Pain From Ankylosing Spondylitis

by Gavin Morrison on December 2, 2014

Ankylosing Spondylitis, also known as Marie-Strumpell disease and rheumatoid spondylitis, is a rheumatic inflammatory condition that affects the vertebrae and spinal facet joints. This disease can also attack other joints or organs in the body.  It is a type of arthritis that is generally diagnosed and treated by a rheumatologist or physician who specializes in arthritis. It is more common in men than women by a ratio of 3 to 1. Ankylosing Spondylitis can occur in patients of any age. If left untreated, the condition may become a serious health issue.

Ankylosing_spondylitis_lumbar_spine

Causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosis refers to the fusion of joint structures. Spondylitis is the medical term for inflammation in the spine. Over time, this inflammatory condition begins fusing the vertebrae or spine together so that the patient experiences permanent restriction in spinal movement.

The lower spine is the main target of the disease. However, there are cases where the disease affects other areas of the spine such as the neck and occasionally the whole spine. In severe the disease can also affect the function of the heart, lungs, eyes or kidneys.


Causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis

The exact causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis are still largely unknown. It is known that the disease is heredity. People may inherit a gene called HLA-B27 that can predispose them to the disease. More than 90%of Ankylosing Spondylitis patients studied show this genetic predisposition for the disease. However, testing positive for the gene does not mean you will get the disease. Most people with the gene will never contract the disease. More research is being done to uncover other factors that contribute to Ankylosing Spondylitis as well as ways to combat the disease.


Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis

The most common symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis are stiffness and pain in the back as well as bodily fatigue. Symptoms generally come on slowly or intermittently and then gradually progress until they become chronic. Advanced Ankylosing Spondylitis in combination with poor posture can result in excessive forward curvature of the thoracic spine. This condition is called thoracic hyper-kyphosis. In severe case of excessive thoracic kyphosis, lung function is affected leading to breathing problems in some patients. Untreated, the disease progresses to where the vertebral bodies and facet joints start fusing the spine into one solid column of bone. This is called a bamboo spine because of its resemblance to a bamboo-like stalk when seen on an x-ray. Total spinal fusion and the accompanying inflexibility can predispose a patient to vertebral fractures if they fall or are injured in some way.
Treating Ankylosing Spondylitis
Treatment of Ankylosing Spondylitis includes physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications. The medication helps decrease the pain and inflammation around the vertebrae and physical therapy helps strengthen core muscles and increase flexibility in the hips.  Increased core strength and flexibility in the hips helps reduce aggravation of the inflamed areas in the spine making walking and other activities less painful. Postural muscles are also strengthened to ensure that good spinal alignment is maintained in order to reduce pain with activity.
Treatment with anti-inflammatory medications and physical therapy allows most patients to lead relatively normal lives. The condition usually progresses over a span of ten years and then stops. The anti-inflammatory medication helps manage the disease during the active phase. When the patient takes their medication regularly and commits to physical therapy chances are good they will have only minimal disability. If you have been diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis you should find a rheumatologist who is familiar with current treatment as well as the latest research about the disease.

Call: Pro Motion Physical Therapy today for an appointment with one of our Spondylitis specialists – 208-608-0958

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