Ankylosing Spondylitis: The Basics
By Steve Joseph
Ankylosing Spondylitis (pronounced ankle-low-sing spond-ill-eye-tiss) is a chronic form of arthritis that is capable of seriously limiting range and movement. It can occur in other areas of the body, although it is most commonly associated with the spine. It usually presents symptoms such as pain and discomfort in the spine, (or other affected areas) and creates a degree of stiffness that results in a loss of range and movement. In the longer term, the condition causes the development of a bent posture and can even be responsible for fusing vertebrae together causing severe limitation in mobility and thus loss of independence. The hallmark of ankylosing spondylitis is inflammation, pain and stiffness in the joints of the lower back and pelvis.
The same inflammation that ankylosing spondylitis so often causes in the spine, is capable of extending to other tendons and ligaments in other areas of the body, such as the heels, shins, thighs, hips, shoulder blades and ribs. Once again mobility can easily be compromised by the disease so people suffering from ankylosing spondylitis are often urged to do a range of exercises aimed at maintaining range and movement.
The disease varies greatly in both the speed of decline and ultimate extent of inflammation and thus limitation of movement. This means that it is exceedingly difficult to project an outcome for an individual with ankylosing spondylitis.
At the less serious end of the spectrum, ankylosing spondylitis is characterized by periods of back pain and stiffness, with a tendency to be worse in the mornings or after a prolonged period of rest. In more severe cases, spinal stiffness becomes a serious issue and is accompanied by pain and inflammation.
A major characteristic of ankylosing spondylitis is a waxing and waning of symptoms. Periods of intense irritation, followed by relative disappearance is not uncommon. This makes accurate recording of symptoms a worthwile practice in order to establish an overall trend-line of the disease.
Ankylosing spondylitis like many forms of arthritis manifests itself in many levels of severity. Many doctors put a strong emphasis on prevention through regular exercise and movement. For those who suffer the disease, it is best to keep and open mind and be prepared for fluctuations in symptoms.