Ankylosing Spondylitis – Symptoms & Treatment

What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

The word ‘Ankylosing’ means joining together, and ‘Spondylitis’ means inflammation. These refer to a condition (Ankylosing Spondylitis) where the joints in the spine fuse together as a result of inflammation. This typically affects the lower back, but it can also affect other joints and parts of the body.

Anatomical Diagram showing healthy spine compared to spine affected by Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing Spondylitis can lead to a fusion of the joints in the spine, which can cause stiffness and pain.

Symptoms

Symptoms tend to manifest gradually over many months and sometimes years. The symptoms may improve over time but may also worsen. In the majority of cases symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Stiffness and Back Pain, which might improve with exercise, but not after rest
  • Arthritis – Swelling and Pain of the hips, knees and ribs

Key Facts

  • What are the causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis? – The precise cause of Ankylosing Spondylitis is not known, although there is a likely genetic component. The condition begins with inflammation of the bones (often in the spine) and joints, which in turn leads to bony growth, further pain and loss of flexibility.
  • Do I have Ankylosing Spondylitis? – It is relatively difficult to diagnose Ankylosing Spondylitis. Typically I would rely on:
    • Blood tests to identify inflammation
    • Medical imaging, including x-rays, MRI and ultrasound to identify damage, inflammation (including tendon inflammation), exclude alternative pathologies and ascertain how far the condition has progressed
    • In some cases where other tests are unclear a genetic test may help firm up the diagnosis

It is possible to still have difficulty diagnosing the condition, even with these tools, and in some cases it may take years to fully diagnose the cause of your symptoms.

Treatment

Treatment for Ankylosing Spondylitis tends to focus on relieving symptoms and seeking to delay progression. Normally this would involve a combination of:

  • Exercise – This can improve your posture and range of spinal movement.
  • Physiotherapy – This is largely to aid in streamlining and customising your exercise regime. Although other therapies, such as massage, can be helpful in alleviating symptoms and heightening the benefits of your exercises.
  • Medication – These may include simple over-the-counter Non-Steroidal Anti Inflammatories (NSAIDs) or, should these fail, anti-TNF (Tumor Necrosis Factor) medications may be advised.
  • Corticosteroids – These have a powerful anti-inflammatory effect and I tend to favour administering this via injection under CT or Ultrasound guidance. However, they are also possible to take in tablet form.
  • Surgery – In some rare cases, especially if the spine becomes badly bent, surgery may be recommended.

When To Seek An Opinion

If you experience any symptoms akin to those listed above it is advisable to seek an expert medical opinion. Often these symptoms are caused by a less serious condition, but should Ankylosing Spondylitis be the underlying problem then it is best to diagnose it early.

At my practice I work closely with an expert team of medical and complementary healthcare practitioners, who I trust to care and make a difference for my patients, including:

  • Physiotherapists
  • Osteopaths
  • Gait Specialists
  • Surgeons

If you have any further questions or would like to book in, please do get in touch:

Tel. 07540 123 227

Email. contact@usamahjannoun.co.uk

Address. 27 Harley Street, London, W1G 9QP

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