Ankylosing Spondylitis Overview

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Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of chronic arthritis that involves inflammation of the spine and may cause some vertebra to fuse together, leading to stiffness, severe pain and discomfort. While ankylosing spondylitis cannot be cured, a variety of treatment options can help reduce the pain and ease the symptoms.

Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis

Early signs of ankylosing spondylitis are typically pain and stiffness in the lower back and buttocks. Symptoms tend to develop gradually over several weeks or months, with dull and diffuse pain that may start on one side of the body and spread to the other, becoming worse in the morning and at night. In some individuals, early symptoms appear not in the lower back but in other joints including the hip, ankle, heel, shoulder, elbow or knee. Early symptoms may also include mild fever, general discomfort, and loss of appetite.

Treatment for ankylosing spondylitis at BWH

Patients seeking treatment for ankylosing spondylitis will find comprehensive and compassionate care at the Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) Center for Arthritis and Joint Diseases. The Center is recognized for its pioneering research, innovative therapeutics, and world-class treatment for patients with arthritis and joint diseases including ankylosing spondylitis. With a team of more than 40 board-certified rheumatologists and allergists collaborating with specialists in multiple disciplines, the Center treats more than 30,000 patients annually who come for treatment of osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other rheumatic diseases in addition to ankylosing spondylitis.

Options for treatment of ankylosing spondylitis at BWH include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve pain and reduce swelling.
  • The tumor-necrosis-factor (TNF) blockers that can help reduce stiffness and relieve pain and swelling.
  • A short course of corticosteroids to minimize swelling and pain.
  • Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to reduce inflammation and slow the progress of the disease.
  • Pain relievers and muscle relaxants to provide relief from severe pain and muscle spasms.
  • Surgical options such as hip replacement surgery or knee replacement surgery, or spine surgery to correct severe flexion deformities.
  • Physical therapy to improve physical strength and exercise to maintain flexibility and posture.
  • Heat therapy to reduce pain and soreness in stiff joints and tight muscles, and cold therapy to reduce inflammation and swelling.

Learn more now about BWH and the Center for Arthritis and Joint Diseases, where you can find an allergist or rheumatologist and seek osteoarthritis treatment, and treatment for rheumatism, gout, lupus, psoriasis and other arthritic diseases.

Learn more about Ankylosing Spondylitis and other Spine Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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