Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a type of chronic arthritic disease that affects the spine. The condition is most often found in men between the ages of fifteen and thirty and is more common in certain Native American populations. AS doesn’t have a known cause, but there is a strong genetic element. The specific protein HLA-B27 is found in 95% of people with the ailment. Bacterial infection can also be a triggering factor. AS frequently starts in the sacroiliac joint, inflaming the ligaments and tendons at the point of attachment. Bone then starts to erode at that site and tries to heal itself by producing new bone. The new bone over-grows, and causes the vertebrae to fuse together, creating a rigid spine.
AS is characterized by continual stiffness and pain from the neck to the lower back. The stiffness can be moderate to severe and may result in a stooped posture. Other symptoms of AS include:
AS is diagnosed by a physician based on physical exam, assessment of symptoms that have persisted for greater than three months, review of back and pelvic x-rays and lab tests, and chest measurement during breathing.
Treatment for AS targets symptom reduction, supporting mobility, postural improvement, and deformity prevention. A team composed of the patient, physician, physical therapist, and occupational therapist will provide the best plan of care. Daily exercise will help with range of motion, and activity modification or assistive devices can be added when needed. Medications for the management of pain and inflammation are routinely prescribed. A new class of drugs, called biologics, have the potential to decrease progression of the disease. If the condition has resulted in severe abnormality or loss of function, surgery such as osteotomy, joint replacement, or fusion can be considered.
If you suffer from ankylosing spondylitis and would like to find out if you are a candidate for the treatment choices we offer, please call us at either our New Braunfels or Seguin offices.