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Symptoms & Treatments for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is an arthritic inflammatory condition of the spine, leading to the fusion of your bones and joints. It causes severe back pain and limited mobility, and while it can be effectively managed, you and your physician may need to try a number of therapies before finding a back pain treatment that alleviates your symptoms. Here are the symptoms and treatment options for ankylosing spondylitis. 


More common in men than women, the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis usually appear during early adulthood. Signs and symptoms of the disease include pain in your back and hips and stiffness upon awakening and after extended periods of immobility. Fatigue, shoulder pain, and neck discomfort are also common. In some people, inflammation of the eyes and vision problems may also occur.

Other areas of the body that may be affected by ankylosing spondylitis include the pelvic area, ribs, breastbone, and heels. Because ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive disease, symptoms may worsen over time. You may also develop a decreased range of motion, headache, and various other symptoms as a result of systemic inflammation. These may include fever, loss of appetite, anemia, significant weight loss, and drowsiness.

Ankylosing spondylitis can cause complications such as uveitis, which causes severe eye pain and light sensitivity. It can also lead to compression fractures, hunched-over posture, and heart problems. Aortic inflammation caused by ankylosing spondylitis can impair circulation and raise your risk for a heart attack. 


One of the most common treatments for ankylosing spondylitis is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. These drugs include ibuprofen, naproxen, and indomethacin because they can help relieve pain, inflammation, and stiffness.

However, these options can cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes gastrointestinal bleeding. If NSAIDs are ineffective in treating your symptoms, your physician may recommend that you try biologic medications, which target systemic inflammation. Biologics are administered intravenously or through an injection under your skin.

Physical therapy is another important treatment option in the management of ankylosing spondylitis. It helps provide relief from pain and helps enhance flexibility and strength. Your physical therapist can recommend individualized exercises specific to your activity and comfort needs. 

If you develop any of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your physician to rule out ankylosing spondylitis. Your doctor may order X-rays of your bones and joints, and then conduct blood tests to evaluate markers of inflammation which may indicate the presence of degenerative arthritic conditions such as spondylitis. For more information or assistance, contact resources such as Wayne Isaacson MD.