symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis

3 Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis You Shouldn’t Ignore

You’ve experienced a normal amount of back pain and discomfort in the spine before.

But lately, you just feel like the pain has gotten out of control. What’s more, you also don’t feel as though it’s getting any better. In fact, it just seems to be getting worse, even spreading up the spine.

You’re starting to wonder if you’re displaying the symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis.

But what exactly is AS, and what are the types of pain and additional symptoms you need to watch out for? Most of all, what are your treatment options?

Keep on reading this post to find out.

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Before we get into the most prominent symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis, let’s make sure that you understand what it is.

In brief, Ankylosing Spondylitis is a chronic form of arthritis in the spine (in some cases, this arthritis can also impact other joints in your body.) It’s best defined as a continual inflammation within your vertebrae.

If left untreated — or if you simply have a more difficult case — this pain can develop into ankylosis. This means that new bone formations begin in your spine. Over time, affected portions of the spine could become immobile as a result.

In particular, the sacroiliac joints in the base of your spine, which connects it to the pelvis, are seriously affected by AS.

Unfortunately, the causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis aren’t fully known.

Many professionals believe that cases of AS are caused by genetics. If your body produces the protein HLA-B27, you’re more likely to get AS. However having this genetic marker is not a requirement, nor is it a guarantee that you’ll get AS.

There are also hypotheses that see a connection between prolonged bacterial infections and AS.

Finally, it’s important to note that AS happens more frequently — and begins earlier in life — to men.

Now, let’s take a look at the most common AS symptoms.

1. Intense Pain

First, it’s important to stress that Ankylosing Spondylitis pain is vastly different from your random, or even more frequent, back pain.

It’s not something that happens as a result of moving heavy boxes, straining yourself, or any other easily explainable activity. It’s also much more intense and disruptive than more common back pains.

The pain will often start in your lower back and even the buttocks. It may start off somewhat manageable — and many people assume it will go away on its own.

You may soon notice that the pain even seems to be alternating sides, when in the past you only felt discomfort on one side.

The pain eventually becomes chronic. It likely even begins to spread all the way up to your neck. In some cases, you even feel it in your heels.

Resting also won’t help the pain — in fact, it may even make it worse. However, you do notice that, when you move around, you get at least a temporary relief from this pain.

2. Poor Posture

Poor posture certainly isn’t uncommon in today’s world. After all, we spend much of our time hunched over smartphones or on the computer.

But continued poor posture — even after an attempt to make a correction — is one of the surprising symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis. You may notice that you just can’t seem to improve your bent-over, hunched posture.

In some cases, the opposite may even be true.

Have you noticed that your spine’s normal curvature seems to be disappearing? While at first, you might have thought your posture was improving, now, your spine feels almost too straight.

You often feel sensations of stiffness, and though you long to stretch and move your spine, it just feels impossible.

You’ve even noticed that your posture makes it hard for you to take deep, calming breaths. And when you can, it’s extremely painful.

Sudden changes in your posture are one of the most common early signs of Ankylosing Spondylitis. See a medical professional as soon as you can.

3. Eye Pain and Strain

You’ve always had excellent eyesight.

You’ve never had to strain to read signs or emails at your computer, and you’ve never worn glasses or contact lenses.

But lately, that’s all seemed to change. You notice that your eyes are much more sensitive to light than they’ve been in the past. In fact, if you enter into a room that’s too bright, you eventually start getting a headache.

Sometimes, those headaches can be quite severe.

Additionally, you’ve realized that your eyes have been much redder than normal in the past few months. You’ve noticed that, after reading or even going about your normal activities, you experience eye pain.

Your eyes even seem to be swelling up, and you’re dealing with watery eyes more frequently than ever before.

This is one of the symptoms of AS — not an issue with your eyesight as a whole.

Treating the Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis

We know that recognizing some of the symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis in yourself can be quite intimidating.

If you suspect that you may have AS, then it’s important to meet with a medical professional as soon as you can. They’ll conduct imaging tests, like MRIs and x-rays, and they’ll even examine how well you’re able to move your spine.

In some cases, you may be prescribed NSAIDs for pain management. You may also be but on TNF blockers to reduce swelling in the joints.

You may also need physical therapy. In some cases, you might consider surgery.

No matter what your AS treatment options are, we want to help you get the best care available. Spend some time on our website to learn how we can help, and reach out to us to book your appointment.

Will a back brace help alleviate my lower back pain?

Back braces are commonly used for back pain.  They provide support for the back and may relieve pain.  They are best used to help brace the back to prevent injury (such as a work belt) rather to treat pain.  They may be useful during flareups, but wearing a back brace all the time can lead to weakening of the back muscles and increased ironically more back pain.

A properly fitted back brace will limits spinal movement. It may affect participation in sports, especially if a lot of back movements are involved.

Back braces are commonly used after spinal surgery, especially fusion surgery.  They limit movement, support and most importantly remind patients to not over do it.

Back surgery today is not like 10 or even 5 years ago.  Most back surgeries can be done using a small spinal endoscope through an incision the size of your fingernail (index.php).  Since the surgery is minimally invasive their is less tissue damage and as a result pain.  Patients may forget they just had surgery and over do it.  Heavy lifting, strenuous activity or running may re-injure their back.  Wearing  back brace may remind the patient to take it easy.

About US:  Dr. Spivak is president of Executive Spine Surgery.  He specializes in extremely minimally invasive spine surgery utilizing new endoscopic technology recently introduced from Germany. Dr. Spivak has offices in Manhattan, NY, West Orange, NJ and Hackettstown, NJ.  Please call 908-452-5623 or click on schedule-an-appointment.

Does everyone eventually get some form of spondylosis?

Spondylosis is degenerative arthritis of the spine.  Most, if not all, people develop evidence of spondylosis on X-rays, CT or MRI, since it is normal wear and tear changes of the spine.   Fortunately many people do not develop significant pain or other symptoms from it.  For more information click on Back arthritis or Sciatica.  Good Luck!

How can I ease upper back pain?

There are many causes of upper back pain.  The pain may originate from your bones, disks, muscles, joints, nerves and spinal cord, neck, shoulders, lungs and heart.  Most causes of upper back pain I see is from spine fractures, pulled muscles or arthritis.  Initially you may be treated with rest, anti-inflammatory medicine, muscle relaxant and  sometimes pain medicine. If the pain is severe your doctor may take you out of work.  If the pain does not improve or you have neurological problems (weakness, numbness, etc) then you would need a full workup which may include X-rays, MRI and sometimes blood tests.   Further treatment would depends on what is found.

Click Read More for information on treatment options.  Please contact Executive Spine Surgery for more information.  Good Luck!

I pulled a back muscle and collapsed 2 discs. Is this the cause of Scheuemann’s Disease?

No this probably did not cause your Scheuremann’s disease.

Scheuremann’s disease is wedge shaped spinal vertebrae.  This is from uneven vertebrae growth during adolescence.  The back of the vertebral body grows faster then the front forming a wedge or triangle shape to the vertebrae.  When multiple vertebrae are affected these triangles cause an increase in the curvature of the back resulting in a hunchback or kyphosis. The cause of Scheuremann’s disease is not known. It does not progress after you stop growing.  It can cause severe back pain, rarely it can affect your internal organs and spinal cord.  Trauma or on-the-job injuries do not cause Schuermann’s disease.

Severe work injuries can cause multiple vertebral body compression fractures that maybe wrongly diagnosed as Schuermann’s disease. Work injury can also damage other spine structures like muscles, ligaments and joints causing pain unrelated to the compressed vertebrae (Schuermann’s disease). Independent on the the presence or absence of Schuermann’s disease the most important question is did you have back pain prior to the injury. If you did not then something was injured during the injury that is now causing your pain. For more information on Scheuremann’s disease or on endoscopic spine surgery please contact Executive Spine Surgery.  Good luck!

What can be done? Can it be fixed easily? What are Schmorls nodes? What is an annular bulge?

These are 3 separate problems:

1. Schmorl’s nodes – Schmorl’s nodes are disk herniations into the vertebral body.  The disk squeezes out of the disk space into the bone.  This is usually not usually painful or treated.

2. L5-S1 degenerated, bulging and protruded disk – Over time disks wear out from injury, aging, wear and tear, genetics, work and sports.  Your L5-S1 disk is degenerating, wearing out and likely collapsing and bulging into the spinal canal pinching the L5 and S1 nerve root.  A protruded disk is larger then bulging disk.  This may be the source of the pain and is often fixed with discectomy or spinal fusion.  Click link to read more on sciatica and disk herniations I have a pain in my left butt that goes all the way down my leg. What could that be?

3. Spinal stenosis – is narrowing of the spinal canal.  The measurement varies but is in the range of 11 mm.  More important than the measured size of the canal is the appearance and the amount of nerve compression seen on MRI.  Spinal stenosis may be treated with pain injections or surgery.  Minimally invasive treatment options include MILD procedure and METRx tubular laminectomy.  JOIMAX is currently working on new endoscopic treatment for spinal stenosis.

I would recommend seeing a spine surgeon to determine the best treatment for your back.   Good Luck!

Can stress fractures cause other medical problems like degenerative disc disease, stenosis, bone spurs?

Stress fractures of the pars interarticularis (the bone that hooks the upper vertebrae to the lower vertebrae preventing them from slipping apart) are called spndylolysis.  Lysis means split or in this case break or fracture.  Spondylolysis commonly happens in childhood during the growth spurt.  It may also break from physically demanding sports like football or gymnastics.  Sometimes these fractures may heal with rest and bracing, or they may stay the same or progress resulting in slippage of the spine called spondylolithesis.  Spondylolithesis is when the upper vertebrae slips forward on the lower vertebrae.  This may cause back pain from abnormal alignment and instability (increased spine movements).  Spondylolithesis may also cause leg pain from bone, ligament and/or scar tissue pinching the nerves going to the legs.  This tightness is called spinal stenosis.   The pars fracture and spondylolithesis (slip) may stress the disks, facet joints, ligaments and muscles leading to degenerative disk disease and bone spurs.

Today there are many surgical options for spondylolysis (pars fracture) and spondylolithesis (slip) including endoscopic foraminotomy (opening up the tightness around the nerves), endoscopic rhizotomy (cutting the facet pain nerves like a “root canal” for the spine) and endoscopic fusion (placement of screws, rods and bone to stabilize the spine strengthen the spine and prevent abnormal spine movements called instability).  For more information please contact Executive Spine Surgery.  Good Luck!

I smashed my shoulder into the pool wall 5 days ago and now I can’t move my neck or shoulder without a lot of pain.

You probably pulled a muscle, but other possibilities included injury to your facet joints or disk.  If you think you broke your neck or have any arm or leg pain, numbness, weakness, clumsiness or bowel and bladder problems you should see your doctor right away.  If not I would recommend rest, anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen or naproxen (if fine with your doctor) and neck stretching.

Neck Stretch Routine: Take a hot shower and heat and loosen your neck:

1. Bend neck forward and hold in position with arm stretching neck 30 seconds

2. Bend neck backwards 30 seconds

3. Bend neck right 30 seconds

4. Bend neck left 30 seconds

5. Turn neck right 30 seconds

6. Turn left 30 seconds

Complete 3 sets of stretching routine. Good Luck!

If pain persists or you develop any arm or leg pain, numbness, weakness, clumsiness or bowel and bladder problems you should see your doctor right away.  If this fails to help you may benefit formal physical therapy and consultation with spine surgeon.   For more information please contact Executive Spine Surgery.  Good Luck!

I strained my back muscles and hips making it is painful to walk. Will I need a wheelchair?

Pulled muscles in the back usually improve with rest, stretching and anti-inflammatoy medicine (if you can take them) and physical therapy after a few days to weeks.  Pulled muscles do not cause leg paralysis and therefore do not require a wheelchair.

The back injury may be more serious then a pulled muscle, such as fractured vertebral body (vertebral body compression fracture), injured back joints (facet arthropathy or facet joint syndrome), injured sacroiliac joint (SI), ruptured or damaged lumbar disk or slipped spine (spondylolithesis).  These circumstances may require steroid injections or surgical treatments such as kyphoplasty or vertebroplasty, endoscopic rhizotomy, endoscopic discectomy or endoscopic fusion.

If the pain does not improve or if you have developed or develop neurological problems (difficulty walking, leg numbness, weakness or bowel and bladder difficulties then you should see your doctor right away.  Good luck!

Can spondylosis cause paralysis in an arm?

Spondylosis is the “wear and tear” arthritis changes that occur in the spine over time.  Disk herniations, bone spurs or ligament thickening may cause compression and injury of the spinal cord and/or spinal nerves producing weakness or paralysis of the arm.   Fortunately this is not common.  Spondylosis may also cause neck pain and stiffness, electrical pain shooting down your spine with head movements, numbness, clumsiness hands, unsteadiness or falling, bowel and bladder dysfunction and paralysis.  If you have any further questions please contact Executive Spine Surgery.  Good Luck!