Ankylosing Spondylitis, also known as axial spondyloarthritis, is an inflammatory disease that, over time, can cause some of the bones in the spine, called vertebrae, to fuse. This fusing makes the spine less flexible and can result in a hunched posture. If ribs are affected, it can be difficult to breathe deeply.
Symptoms typically begin in early adulthood. Inflammation also can occur in other parts of the body — most commonly, the eyes.
The areas most commonly affected are:
- The joint between the base of the spine and the pelvis.
- The vertebrae in the lower back.
- The places where tendons and ligaments attach to bones, mainly in the spine, but sometimes along the back of the heel.
- The cartilage between the breastbone and the ribs.
- The hip and shoulder joints.
Ankylosing Spondylitis has two types. When the condition is found on X-ray, it is called Ankylosing Spondylitis, also known as Axial Spondyloarthritis. When the condition can’t be seen on X-ray but is found based on symptoms, blood tests and other imaging tests, it is called Non-radiographic Axial Spondyloarthritis.
There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but treatments can lessen symptoms and possibly slow progression of the disease. Medicines can relieve inflammation, pain and stiffness.
Physical therapy is an important part of treatment and can provide a number of benefits, from pain relief to improved strength and flexibility. A physical therapist can suggest specific exercises:
- Range-of-motion and stretching exercises.
- Strengthening exercises for abdominal and back muscles.
- Proper sleeping and walking positions.
Surgery may be recommended if you have severe pain or if a hip joint is so damaged that it needs to be replaced.