Ankylosing Spondylitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

If simplified, ankylosing spondylitis can be understood as “arthritis of the spine”.

Ankylosing spondylitis symptoms

Ankylosing Spondylitis hurts! Is there a cure?

Ankylosing Spondylitis is another fancy sounding disease under Arthritis. If simplified, it can be understood as “arthritis of the spine”. Like any disease that ends in the suffix “-tis”, it often involves inflammation. But in this case, the ankylosing spondylitis focuses more on the spinal cord. It causes the spinal cord to inflame and contort in different directions. When it contorts in different directions, it then triggers more bone formations. This causes the sine to petrify in an awkward position, causing severe, chronic pain.

In the long run, Ankylosing Spondylitis can cause further damage especially when one is afflicted with Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease to the bones which makes them brittle and easily broken. And coupled with Ankylosing Spondylitis can cause a whole lot of pain and pinched nerves, which can become unbearable for long periods of time.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Symptoms

Common Ankylosing Spondylitis symptoms may include pain and stiffness of hips and back. However, the times the symptoms are more prominent are during periods of inactivity and during the morning. Because the spinal cord becomes more swollen as time passes, the symptoms may worsen. However, this won’t happen at regular intervals. Other times, it will happen only in the morning. Or, the attacks can happen out of the blue.

Common areas that affected by Ankylosing Spondylitis include:

  • Joint between the pelvic area and spine (sacral area)
    • This is often near the tailbone.
  • Lumbar area
  • Places where tendons and ligaments are but may also occur at your heel
    • When this is the place of pain, it can paralyze your movement due to its swelling.
    • his can also make walking extremely difficult.
  • The cartilage between your breastbone and ribs
    • This can lead to breathing complications due to the swelling. The swelling will cause your body to crush against your lungs, making it hard for people to breathe.
  • Hip and shoulder joints

What causes Ankylosing Spondylitis?

There is no direct cause to Ankylosing Spondylitis. In fact, there’s also no known cause for Ankylosing Spondylitis. However, there are some genetic assumptions that can increase the chances of one being afflicted with Ankylosing Spondylitis. One would have the HLA-B27 gene which would increase the risk of Ankylosing Spondylitis. Other factors include:

  • Gender: Being a male means having the Y chromosome. The Y Chromosome is must smaller than the X chromosome making it more possible for the Ankylosing Spondylitis to manifest.
  • Age: Ankylosing Spondylitis usually occurs in late adolescence or adulthood.
  • History of Osteoporosis: Bone damage can also make it possible for Ankylosing Spondylitis to manifest.
  • Frequent gastrointestinal infections
  • Are there cures for Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Unfortunately, there are no known cures for Ankylosing Spondylitis. Ankylosing Spondylitis cures may happen in the future. But right now, there are only known as management and small remedies to make the pain go away or to ease the symptoms.

List of Ankylosing Spondylitis Treatments

While they are called “treatments”, these are methods there to arrest the effects of the symptoms. Because the symptoms can cause severe pain, these methods are meant more to alleviate the pain rather than eliminate Ankylosing Spondylitis altogether.

Physical/ Occupational Therapy

The Physical and Occupational Therapy is to help build one’s pain tolerance against Ankylosing Spondylitis. This would also minimize the deformity of the bones as it will constantly be moving. As the bones keep on moving, some parts are slowly ground off. When they’re grounded off, the bony growth can make up for the bone damage it suffered through movement.

Exercise

Because Ankylosing Spondylitis occurs when there’s little movement, the exercise would help prevent the inflammation. Inflammation is when fluid builds up and having constant exercise would cause the fluids to move. Because the fluids would move, the pain would lessen.

If not doing severe exercise, it can also be certain things implemented to help you keep moving such as a Standing Desk for work.

Medication

Some medicines would target the inflammation Ankylosing Spondylitis cause.

Surgery

When there’s too much of a build up in the spine or in any joint of the body, surgery is required. The surgery would then deflate the inflamed portion to lessen the pain.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Outlook

The severity of Ankylosing Spondylitis can vary per person. Some can suffer severe pain while others will only suffer the mildest of its effects. However, Ankylosing Spondylitis’ progression can either stunt or get worse over time. When it gets worse, however, it can lead to paralysis due to pain and it can become a risk factor for other problems. Others have theirs stunted and the pain will remain. But, it will still be painful. It’s just that the pain won’t progress as much.

Most people afflicted with severe Ankylosing Spondylitis can find themselves requiring a wheelchair every now and then to cope with the pain. Others try to keep themselves moving in order to stop the swelling.

Home Remedies to Ease Ankylosing Spondylitis

Surgeries and therapy can get expensive. And having that kind of upkeep may be problematic. We’re not saying to NOT go to the doctor. But there are also ways to soothe the effects so that the medical interventions may be able to work better. Below are some ways to ease Ankylosing Spondylitis at home.

  • Stretching: Stretching allows you to release the fluid build up in your tendons, ligaments, and cartilages. And if the bones chip off in the process, so much the better as the growth will focus on the damage and not to the point of deformity. In a way, stretching “controls” the growth of the Ankylosing Spondylitis.
  • Heating Pad or a Hot Bath: Hot baths often times help with the swelling because the heat creates pressure which helps the fluids inside die down. This can also help prior to exercise as it helps your muscles warm up faster. You can also put a heating element for your bed to help ease the pain when sleeping.
  • Cold Press: Don’t do this right after exercising. If you do, you’ll freeze your muscles and may damage them. Cold press numbs the nerves for awhile and provides temporary relief. At the same time, having a cold press can reduce some of the swellings. It highly depends on which one the body is more receptive to.
  • Movement: You don’t always have to go to the gym. Even as much as walking around can ease the pain.

Sources:

  • Braun, J., & Sieper, J. (2007). Ankylosing spondylitis. The Lancet, 369(9570), 1379-1390.
  • Braun, J. V., Van Den Berg, R., Baraliakos, X., Boehm, H., Burgos-Vargas, R., Collantes-Estevez, E., … & Geher, P. (2011). 2010 update of the ASAS/EULAR recommendations for the management of ankylosing spondylitis. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 70(6), 896-904.
  • Braun, J., Bollow, M., Neure, L., Seipelt, E., Seyrekbasan, F., Herbst, H., … & Sieper, J. (1995). Use of immunohistologic and in situ hybridization techniques in the examination of sacroiliac joint biopsy specimens from patients with ankylosing spondylitis.Arthritis & Rheumatism: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology, 38(4), 499-505.
  • Feldtkeller, E., Khan, M., Van Der Heijde, D., Van Der Linden, S., & Braun, J. (2003). Age at disease onset and diagnosis delay in HLA-B27 negative vs. positive patients with ankylosing spondylitis. Rheumatology international, 23(2), 61-66.>/li>
  • Gorman, J. D., Sack, K. E., & Davis Jr, J. C. (2002). Treatment of ankylosing spondylitis by inhibition of tumor necrosis factor α. New England Journal of Medicine, 346, 1349-1356.
  • Sieper, J., Braun, J., Rudwaleit, M., Boonen, A., & Zink, A. (2002). Ankylosing spondylitis: an overview. Annals of the rheumatic diseases, 61

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