What Helps Ankylosing Spondylitis Pain?

Reviewed on 7/15/2021

Treatments for ankylosing spondylitis pain include over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), biologic medications, corticosteroid injections, opioids (narcotics), physical therapy, and exercise.
Treatments for ankylosing spondylitis pain include over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), biologic medications, corticosteroid injections, opioids (narcotics), physical therapy, and exercise.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic, inflammatory autoimmune disease that is a rare form of arthritis. It primarily affects the joints between the bones of the pelvis (sacroiliac joints), and the spinal column, ribcage, neck, and skull bones (the axial skeleton). 

Ankylosing spondylitis treatment usually involves a combination of medication, exercise, physical therapy, good posture practices, applying heat/cold to help relax muscles and reduce joint pain, and surgery in severe cases.

Treatments to help ankylosing spondylitis pain include:

Physical therapy and exercise can also help ankylosing spondylitis pain and stiffness and maintain flexibility and mobility.

  • Exercises include: 
    • Cardiovascular 
    • Stretching
    • Core strengthening
    • Isometric strengthening
    • Dynamic movements
    • Breathing exercises 
    • Fall-prevention exercises 
    • Posture training can help prevent the spine from becoming “frozen” 
    • Heat or cold therapy to relieve pain, stiffness, and swelling
    • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) to help manage pain by blocking nerve signals to the brain

Other treatments for ankylosing spondylitis include: 

  • Safety measures to minimize accidents caused by limited mobility 
    • Modify the home to decrease the risk of falls
    • Always wear seatbelts in motor vehicles
    • Sleep on a thin pillow to help avoid developing deformities of the neck
    • Limit alcohol
    • Avoid or limit use of narcotics and sleeping pills
    • Avoid high-impact activities and contact sports if the spine is inflexible
  • Support groups to help patients cope

Surgery may be used to treat severe cases of ankylosing spondylitis and may include:

  • Fracture stabilization 
  • Spinal surgery to fuse the bones in the cervical or upper thoracic spine
  • Total hip replacement for severe, chronic hip pain and limited mobility
  • Wedge osteotomy to remove a piece of bone from a spinal bone (vertebra), followed by realignment of the spine which is braced to heal in a better position

What Are Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis tend to start in late adolescence or early adulthood, and can include: 

  • Pain and stiffness in the lower back and buttocks
  • General discomfort (early stage)
  • Mild fever (early stage)
  • Loss of appetite (early stage)
  • Soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons) inflammation where it enters the bones (enthesitis), especially in the extremities
  • Arthritis
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia 
  • Bowel inflammation
  • Eye inflammation (uveitis or iritis)
    • Painful, watery, red eyes
    • Sensitivity to bright light
    • Blurred vision
  • Stooped posture (advanced stage)

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Reviewed on 7/15/2021
References
http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/332945-overview

https://www.uptodate.com/contents/axial-spondyloarthritis-including-ankylosing-spondylitis-beyond-the-basics?search=Ankylosing%20Spondylitis&source=search_result&selectedTitle=2~150&usage_type=default&display_rank=2

https://spondylitis.org/

https://www.aarda.org/diseaseinfo/ankylosing-spondylitis/

https://spondylitis.org/about-spondylitis/treatment-information/

https://creakyjoints.org/living-with-arthritis/ankylosing-spondylitis-flare-ups/

https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/ankylosing-spondylitis