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Ankylosing Spondylitis

What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a type of inflammatory arthritis which causes inflammation and pain in the spinal joints primarily.Ankylosing Spondylitis most commonly affects the lower back region of the body, in particular the sacroiliac joints. In many cases of Ankylosing Spondylitis, inflammation within the spinal column can cause new bone to begin forming between the vertebrae. This can cause the vertebrae to fuse in various parts of the spine, typically fusing the spine in flexed forward, immobile postures. Fusion can cause increased spinal stiffness which may lead to further pain. As Ankylosing Spondylitis progresses, other areas of the body may be affected. These areas include the smaller joints within the hands and feet, as well as the ribs and shoulders. In some instances, the disease can affect other systems of the body such as the skin, lungs and eyes. The cause of Ankylosing Spondylitis is not clear, however there are markers and predisposing factors that may contribute to the development of the condition. Genetics, environment and frequent gastrointestinal infections are among the pre-disposing factors. Men are more commonly affected than women and diagnosis tends to occur between the ages of 17 and 45 years.

Symptoms:

Back pain
Stiffness
Neck and buttock pain
Common to experience active stage and remissive stage

Severity of disease is patient-dependent. Some people with Ankylosing Spondylitis may experience discomfort in the spine from time to time, while others experience severe and debilitating symptoms at frequent intervals with minimal time in remission from symptoms. Many people with ankylosing spondylitis do not seek medication attention, especially if the symptoms are mild. In these cases, the disease is not diagnosed until it has progressed, leading to increased pain and disability for the patient.

How can Physiotherapy help?

Ankylosing Spondylitis responds well to physical activity. Your Physiotherapist will assess your spinal movements and posture as well as strength and overall movement ability. They will assist you with performing appropriate stretches and strengthening exercises to maintain your posture, spinal strength and mobility. If your hands, feet, hips or shoulders are involved, they will also provide you with specific exercises to help maintain mobility and strength in those joints.

In many cases, people can participate in group exercise programs. Hydrotherapy has shown to be a beneficial way to manage symptoms caused due to Ankylosing Spondylitis. Physiotherapists are able to implement other pain relieving treatments that can help manage symptoms.