Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that affects the joints in the spine. It can cause inflammation (redness, heat, swelling, and pain) in the spine or vertebrae.
In some people, the condition can affect other joints. The shoulders, ribs, hips, knees, and feet can be affected. It can also affect places where the tendons and ligaments attach to the bones. Sometimes it can affect other organs such as the eyes, bowel, and very rarely, the heart and lungs.
AS affects the axial skeleton and sacroiliac joints, causing characteristic inflammatory back pain, which can lead to structural and functional impairments and a decrease in quality of life.
Affected joints progressively become stiff and sensitive due to a bone formation at the level of the joint capsule and cartilage. It causes a decreased range of motion and gives the spine an appearance similar to bamboo, hence the alternative name “bamboo spine”.
Early diagnosis and treatment helps to control the pain and stiffness and may reduce or prevent significant deformity.
AS usually begins in the teen or young adult years. Most people who have the disease get symptoms before the age of 30. It affects people for the rest of their lives. And it affects about twice as many men as women.
The cause of AS is unknown. It’s likely that genes (passed from parents to children) and the environment both play a role. The main gene associated with the risk for AS is called HLA-B27.
Patients usually complain of back pain in the sacroiliac (SI) joints and gluteal regions and progresses to involve the entire spine. Morning stiffness lasting greater than 30 minutes is a common subjective complaint. Pain and stiffness increase with inactivity and improve with exercise. The hips, shoulder and knees are the most commonly and most severely affected of the extremity joints. As AS may cause a decrease in chest expansion, breathing difficulties may also be experienced in AS.
There is no cure for AS. Some treatments relieve symptoms and may keep the disease from getting worse. In most cases, treatment involves medicine, exercise, and self-help measures. In some cases, surgery can repair some joint damage.
The diagnosis of AS is commonly made through a combination of thorough subjective and physical examinations, laboratory data commonly by X-Ray, MRI and different blood tests
Physiotherapy is an essential component in the treatment of AS. It aims to alleviate pain, increase spinal mobility and functional capacity, reduce morning stiffness, correct postural deformities, increase mobility, and improve the psychosocial status of the patients.
Dr Tushar Bapat
Dr Tushar Bapat is an MPT in hand conditions. With a work experience of 2 years, Dr Tushar has expertise in orthopaedic rehabilitation.
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