Arthritic Spinal Conditions
What is ankylosing spondylitis?
Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is classified as a rheumatologic disorder of the lumbar spine. It is considered one of the so-called seronegative arthropathies. It’s a type of arthritis that causes the joints in the lower back – the sacroiliac joints and joints of the lumbar spine – to become inflamed. It will also frequently affect the hips and other peripheral joints.
Ankylosing spondylitis comes from Latin words meaning “bent spine.” The disease has been present since antiquity and has been found in the skeletal remains of Egyptian mummies. AS usually strikes a person between the teen years and the age of 30. The classic picture of AS is a man between the ages of 15 and 40 with intermittent, dull low back pain and stiffness slowly progressing over a period of months. Although AS was once considered to predominantly affect men, it is now known to affect women as well. Although women seem to have less progressive spinal disease, their peripheral joints tend to be more severely involved.
What are the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis?
The pathogenesis of AS is not known, but a genetic predisposition to the disorder does exist. Patients with AS often have stiffness in the morning that lasts a few minutes to several hours, sometimes coupled with fatigue. Prolonged inactivity can cause more pain and stiffness in the back, unlike other lower back disorders, which will often improve with rest. With AS, there may be pain and stiffness in the shoulders, hips or other joints as well. After a few years with the disorder, there may be pain in the middle or upper part of the back and gradual stiffening of the spine and eventually the neck. The deformity associated with AS is a rigid kyphosis, which causes a stiff, hunched forward posture.
What are the treatment options?
Ankylosing spondylitis can be slowed or halted by various treatment plans. A common treatment plan utilizes medication, exercise and/or physical therapy, and other supplementary treatment approaches, such as applying heat or cold to dull pain.
NSAIDs are usually the first line of medicinal defense. If they are not enough, you might be prescribed second line medications, to more effectively prevent pain and stiffness. However, these are not the only possibilities. A new type of medication is on the rise known as a TNF blocker. Talk to your spinal care specialist to determine what kind of medication is right for you.
Exercise is another essential when fighting AS. Keeping your body flexible can prevent pain, improve posture, and allow for a fuller lifestyle.
In more severe instances, surgery may be performed to manage AS. Procedures like joint replacements and surgical corrections can heal deformities and remove pain. Talk to your specialist extensively before deciding to have surgery for your AS. For many, an active lifestyle and pain medication can keep pain to a minimum.
Every surgical procedure comes with risks. To learn about these risks and how to minimize them, talk to your spinal specialist.
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder. It usually affects the small joints in your hands and feet, but it can also occur elsewhere. It’s a result of general wear and tear on your joints, and it affects their lining, which can cause bone erosion and deformity.
What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:
- Swollen or tender joints
- Joints are warm to the touch
- Stiffness that starts in the morning and lasts for hours
- Rheumatoid nodules, or firm bumps under the skin
- Fatigue and exhaustion
- Weight loss
Symptoms may go through phases of severity, or might remain consistent. If you experience those symptoms, arrange to see a doctor or specialist.
What are the treatment options?
While there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, there are medications available to reduce pain and inflammation. Those medications, combined with physical therapy, can help you protect your joints from further damage and slow the progress of rheumatoid arthritis.
Common medications include NSAIDs, which reduce inflammation and can be found over-the-counter. Stronger prescription NSAIDs can be available if prescribed by a doctor. Steroids, immunosuppressants, and other drugs can be used as advised by a medical professional.