Could Your Lower Back Pain Be Ankylosing Spondylitis?

By Savanna Stone
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If you’ve never heard of Ankylosing Spondylitis, don’t worry. Chances are, you don’t have it. It only affects 3.5 to 13 per 1,000 people in the United States. I’m not writing this post to scare you, just to inform you of symptoms in case you do have it. I just happen to have a close relationship to the condition because my husband and father-in-law have it. Most of their symptoms include a tight lower back and lower back pain. So if you experience symptoms like these and are worried you might have ankylosing spondylitis, here’s what you need to know:


What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that can cause the vertebrae in your spine to fuse together over time, making the spine less flexible. This causes poor posture and, if it spreads to your ribs, could make it difficult to breathe deeply. 

This is a healthy spine:

This is a spine with ankylosing spondylitis:

You can see that in the unhealthy spine, your vertebrae fuse together and your spinal discs shrink, which causes a lot of pain.

One of the main causes of AS is when one has a gene called HLA-B27. People with that gene are at higher risk for developing AS, but only some people who have the gene develop the condition. Men are more likely to have AS than women, with signs to the condition starting in early adulthood. AS can also affect many other parts of the body, most often your eyes. 

People with gastrointestinal infections are also at higher risk for developing AS.


Symptoms:

One of the first signs of AS is pain and stiffness in your lower back and hips. Pain and stiffness usually occur in the morning or after being inactive for a long period of time. Here are some other common symptoms.

  • Pain is irregular: it might worsen, improve, or stop
  • Eye inflammation, red eye, blurred vision, and increased sensitivity to light
  • Pain in other joints, such as hips, shoulders, vertebrae of the back, cartilage between breastbone and ribs, ankles, feet
  • Pain came slowly
  • Pain wakes you from sleep in the second half of the night
  • Pain improves with exercise and is worse with rest

Treatment options:

If you think you might have Ankylosing Spondylitis, see your doctor or a rheumatologist as soon as you can. While there is no cure for the condition, a doctor can help treat your condition by slowing the symptoms of the condition and can help you be prepared for the risks associated with the condition, like eye issues or lungs and other organs shutting down (which usually only occurs in severe untreated cases).

Besides the pain medication the doctor is likely to give you, you can also do a few things on your own to help fight symptoms of AS:

  • Keep an active lifestyle. The goal of an active lifestyle is to maintain flexibility and keep correct posture. Use the Chirp Wheel+ to help loosen up your muscles.
  • Use heat therapy or cold therapy. Applying heat to stiff joints can help loosen them, and applying cold to inflamed areas can reduce inflammation. Use these therapies to help you cope.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking can create more issues for you if you have AS, especially with your lungs.
  • Maintain correct posture. Practicing good posture can help to hold back symptoms of the condition. 

References

Genetics Home Reference. (2020, April 28). Ankylosing spondylitis - Genetics Home Reference - NIH. Retrieved from https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/ankylosing-spondylitis

Mayo Clinic. (2019, November 8). Ankylosing spondylitis. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ankylosing-spondylitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354808

NIH. (2020, April 17). What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis. Retrieved from https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/ankylosing-spondylitis

Spondylitis Association of America. (2019). Overview of Ankylosing Spondylitis. Retrieved from https://spondylitis.org/about-spondylitis/types-of-spondylitis/ankylosing-spondylitis/