Ankylosing Spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that can cause some of the vertebrae in your spine to fuse together. It is a spondyloarthritis of the spine and pelvis, also known as Bechterew's disease. Due to a bone formation at the level of the joint capsule and cartilage, affected joints progressively become stiff and sensitive. This makes the spine less flexible and can result in a hunched-forward posture. It causes decreased range of motion and gives the spine a 'bamboo-like' appearance, hence the alternative name 'bamboo spine'. If ribs are affected, it may become difficult to breathe deeply.
Other joints such as hips, knees, ankles, shoulders and temporomandibular joints may also be affected by the disease but the back and neck are the most affected areas. Ankylosing Spondylitis affects men more often than women.
Pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips are the early signs and symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis. Morning stiffness lasting greater than 30 minutes is a common subjective complaint, as well as waking up in the second half of the night. Pain is usually aggravated with rest and relieved with physical activity.
The areas most commonly affected are:
The common physical findings include:
There is no known specific cause of Ankylosing Spondylitis, although genetic factors seem to be involved. Particularly, people who have a gene called HLA-B27 are at significantly high risks of developing Ankylosing Spondylitis.
If you have Ankylosing Spondylitis symptoms, your doctor or physiotherapist may ask you to bend your back in different directions. He or she may also measure your chest circumference - once with exhaling air out of your lungs and once with your lungs filled with air.
X-rays allow your doctor to check for changes in your joints and bones, though it may be difficult to spot anything in the early stages of the disease. Hence, MRI scans are done to provide more detailed images of bones and soft tissues.
Physical therapy is an essential part in the treatment of Ankylosing Spondylitis. It can provide a number of benefits, from pain relief to improved physical strength and flexibility. Physiotherapy aims to alleviate pain, increase spinal mobility and functional capacity, reduce morning stiffness, correct posture deformities and increase overall mobility.
Range of motion and stretching exercises can help maintain flexibility in your joints and preserve good posture. Proper sleeping positions, abdominal and back exercises can help maintain your upright posture.
Your doctor or physiotherapist may recommend a surgery only if you have severe pain or joint damage. Otherwise, most people with Ankylosing Spondylitis don't need surgery. If you have symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis and you also smoke, make sure you quit smoking because it creates additional problems. Damaging your lungs can further compromise your ability to breathe. If you suffer from any physical deficiency that restricts proper movement and flexibility of your body, make sure you book an appointment with us and our specialized physiotherapists will help you effectively.