According to the Social Security Administration, ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a disability. Also known as Bechterew's disease, AS is a chronic inflammatory condition that largely impacts the portion of the back where the spine connects to the pelvic bone.
AS adversely affects ligaments and joints. Patients will often experience flare-ups and periods of remission, and the condition can lead to further degradation over time, causing more pain and mobility issues.
AS can cause irreversible deformities, causing patients to appear "stooped-over." It can make walking or even breathing a challenge.
Patients experience their first symptoms before middle age, resulting in chronic conditions patients must manage throughout their lives.
There is no cure for AS. However, treatment is available, and there are some things we recommend you do to relieve your symptoms and even slow the effects of this often debilitating condition.
Tips on Living with Ankylosing Spondylitis
Life with AS is easier when you learn ways to manage the pain, stiffness, and fatigue of your condition. We have compiled a list of tips to help you move better, sleep more soundly, and get more done.
1. Physical Activity
People with AS need to remain as physically active as possible. Exercise helps patients maintain the mobility and functionality of the joints. It also increases their level of comfort and helps with the flexibility of the lower spine.
Exercise relieves stiffness and reduces the chances that the vertebrae fuse together.
Talk to your doctor about which workout routine is best and which to avoid. Time your workout well, and don't over-exert yourself.
Start slowly, maintain good posture, and take warm showers before working out to help loosen muscles and joints.
2. Nutrient Supplements
Dietary supplements can help patients ease their symptoms. However, we recommend using them with caution and disclosing all supplements and medications you are taking to your rheumatologist.
These supplements can reduce inflammation, improve bone density, along with controlling other symptoms. Here are some of the most common supplements AS patients take:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Fish oil
- Vitamin D
- Devil's claw
Along with dietary supplements, there are several medications patients can take to reduce pain and inflammation. These include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen manage the pain of your condition while also managing the inflammation simultaneously.
- Corticosteroids: Steroids have an anti-inflammatory effect that is even stronger than NSAIDs. They carry long-term side effects that make them problematic if taken long-term.
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs): These medications are a stronger class of drugs used to suppress damage caused by autoimmune diseases. It's an extremely effective medication, but its side effects can be serious.
Therapies and Surgery
Rheumatologists will often offer therapies that can ease your symptoms and slow the progressive deterioration of your AS. Injection therapy offers relief by injecting necessary medications directly into the muscles, fat, or other tissues.
They can be more molecularly complicated than oral medications and more effective. Infusion therapy is another method for distributing medicine to the affected sights.
In some cases, we have seen surgery work to restore mobility, posture, and function in the lower back of an AS patient. It is especially critical if the patient's vertebrae are at risk of fusing.
Treating Your Ankylosing Spondylitis
With effective treatments, you can manage the pain and other symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis and treatments can slow the deterioration of your condition. Only an experienced rheumatologist, who specializes in AS, can determine the best treatment plan for you.
Get a customized plan for pain management to improve your quality of life. At Southwest Florida Rheumatology, we have providers with extensive experience treating ankylosing spondylitis.Contact us today to schedule an appointment and speak to one of our staff to discuss your treatment options.