Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis that affects the spine. It is an inflammatory condition that may cause swelling in the ligaments, joint capsules, and tendons, which are attached to the spine. It leads to the fusing of the vertebrae. The fusion makes the spine less flexible and can result in a hunched-forward posture. It affects men more often than women. The symptoms begin in the early adulthood. Pain and stiffness in your lower back/hip, especially in the morning are the symptoms of the AS.
The most commonly affected areas are:
- Joints between the base of your spine and pelvis
- Cartilage between your breastbone and ribs
- Vertebrae in your lower back
- Hip and shoulder joints
- Tendons and ligaments attachment points
Ankylosing spondylitis has no cure, but treatment can decrease your pain and lessen the symptoms. Following are the treatment options for ankylosing spondylitis:
Your doctor may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen and indomethacin to treat the inflammation. These drugs also relieve pain, and stiffness of the joint.
If NSAIDS are not helpful, your doctor may suggest tumor necrosis factor blockers (TNF blockers). The TNF blockers are used in biological therapies that can be effective in the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis. These drugs reduce pain, stiffness, and tenderness or swelling of the joints. They are administered by injecting the medication into the skin or the intravenous line. The examples of TNF blockers are adalimumab, etanercept, golimumab, and infliximab.
Steroids can be used as a short-term therapy. Usually, these drugs are administered intravenously into a swollen joint or as a slow release injection to the muscle.
Usually these are used to treat osteoporosis. But they may also help to relieve pain and stiffness of ankylosing spondylitis.
Your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxants to reduce painful muscle spasms, ease stiffness, and make it easier for you to exercise.
Exercise is an integral part of a spondylitis management program. Daily exercise can help to create better posture and flexibility as well as to lessen the pain. Begin with the warm up slowly and perform the easiest exercise initially. Range-of-motion and stretching exercises can help to maintain flexibility in your joints and preserve good posture. Proper sleeping and walking positions, abdominal and back exercises may help you to maintain your upright posture.
Practicing good posture techniques will help to avoid some of the complications of spondylitis.
Heat pack therapy
Apply a heating pad or hot water bottle to the affected area reduces stiffness and pain. You can also use moist or dry heat. A warm bath, especially before exercise may help to relieve pain.
Cold pack therapy
Apply an ice pack, cold gel pack, or a bag of frozen vegetables to the painful joints to reduce swelling. Cold therapy helps to reduce inflammation after exercise. But, do not apply ice for more than 20 minutes at a time.
If you have severe pain in the joints or if your joint is damaged, then your doctor may suggest you to undergo surgery.
If you smoke, just quit. Smoking is bad for your health, and it creates additional problems for the people with ankylosing spondylitis.
Diet and nutrition
You should eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy weight. It is good if you take more calcium and vitamin D in your diet. In addition to dairy and dairy products, green leafy vegetables and animal products are also rich in calcium.
Feet and footwear
Custom-made soles help to ease the pain. Use gel heel cushions to reduce discomfort while walking.
Practicing yoga can greatly benefit you to overcome the problem of spondylitis.
Many people with spondylitis may benefit from therapeutic massage. If it is practiced carefully, it can be a beneficial tool for pain relief and stress reduction.
Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into the specific points on your skin and it, in turn, activates your body’s pain-relieving hormones.
The goal of the treatment is to relieve the pain and stiffness. Early treatment prevents or delays complications and spinal deformities. Before the disease causes damage to your joints, consult your doctor.