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Home »  Bones & Joints »  Is It Just A Back Pain Or A Condition Called Ankylosing Spondylitis? Here's How You Can Find Out

Is It Just A Back Pain Or A Condition Called Ankylosing Spondylitis? Here's How You Can Find Out

Back pain is a common condition. But sometimes it can be a symptom of some underlying health condition. Here's how you can find out.

Is It Just A Back Pain Or A Condition Called Ankylosing Spondylitis? Heres How You Can Find Out

Ankylosing Spondylitis is a type of arthritis that mainly affects the back

HIGHLIGHTS

  1. There can be many possible reasons behind back pain
  2. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis
  3. There are several factors that can lead to Ankylosing spondylitis

"Oh, my aching back", Yes! This is the term we often come across from our near and dear ones. Low back pain is one of the most common reasons for medical consultations. Almost 70% of the world's population is thought to have suffered from back pain at least once in their lifetime. Out of which, close to 6% of these cases are due to a long-term debilitating condition called as 'Ankylosing Spondylitis'. This condition is often misdiagnosed as general low back pain. According to scientific data, there have been delays in this condition to be correctly identified for as long as 10 years. This is likely due to a lack of awareness amongst the public and tendency of the disease to occur during younger years where the symptoms are not obvious or persistent and often ignored.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of arthritis that mainly affects the back due to inflammation in the spine. This can make the back, neck and rib cage, painful and stiff. AS affects both men and women and usually starts in the late teens or early twenties. However, the onset of this condition can be as late as early 40s. Typical symptoms are pain and stiffness in the lower back and buttock during early morning and in the night. If untreated it may lead to the fusion of small bones in the spine (vertebrae) making it less flexible and leading to a hunched-forward posture. When the ribs are affected, it can prompt breathing difficulty. Other joints can get involved such as the shoulders, hips, and knees. Inflammation can also occur in other parts of the body such as eyes and intestines. Due to the onset of this condition at a younger age, work life/performance can be significantly affected.

While there isn't an exact cause that has been attributed to cause AS, certain factors such as a sedentary lifestyle/lack of exercise, poor posture, smoking, excess weight, poor sleep might worsen the condition. It is more likely to occur in individuals with a family history of this condition. If you have unexplainable back pain, back pain that intensifies after being in one position for a long time, a stiff back, joint swelling, difficulty breathing, or any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is advisable to visit a rheumatologist for assessment and treatment which can prevent long-term complications. Apart from assessment of your clinical symptoms and signs, investigations such as blood tests, X-rays and MRI scan is often needed to diagnose this condition.


AS cannot be cured but can be effectively managed with medications and physiotherapy. With the appropriate physiotherapist led exercises and management, most patients can lead independent lives, be fully employed, and enjoy leisure activities such as jogging, swimming, dance etc. Regular exercises, good posture and addressing destructive lifestyle habits such as smoking and unhealthy diet, will help prevent worsening of the disease.

So, if you are suffering from chronic back pain, it is time to act!

(Dr. Roopa Tekkatte, Consultant - Rheumatologist, Aster RV Hospital and Palak Dengla, Senior Physiotherapist, Aster RV Hospital)


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