Spondylitis is an inflammation of the joints connecting the vertebrae. When it comes to ankylosing spondylitis, the inflammation slowly retreats, but leaves hardened, damaged joints, which separate the spinal columns from each other. So far, the cause of the disease has not been discovered. Sacroiliac joints that are connecting the spinal cord with the pelvis are first to be affected. Bone formations bend over the previously separated bones and stiffness can progress slowly along the spine until it interferes with many (if not all) intervertebral joints.
Ankylosing spondylitis often begins with the lower back pain that can be extended to the back. Pain and stiffness are generally the most irritating in the morning. You can have both painful and stiff hips, and the general feeling of stiffness of the spine. Some patients feel indeterminate chest pain and, strangely, painful sensitivity above the heel. You will feel generally bad with energy loss, weight loss, low appetite and slightly elevated temperature. For unknown reasons, the eyes may be red and painful.
Approximately only one person out of 2000 suffer from this disease. It occurs 10 times more often in men than in women, mostly between 20 and 40 years of age. It seems that the disease is somewhat inherited.
Although the disease usually does not go far with the spine, sometimes it does happen. Ribs may be affected by the spinal cord, thereby reducing the ability to breathe due to the tightness of the lungs.; that is why there is always the possibility of infection in the chest. Illness can also affect the jaws, creating difficulties with chewing and speaking.
What to do?
If you have symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis, contact your doctor who will pay special attention to the degree of mobility of your spine and the spread of your chest during the examination. You will probably need to perform diagnostic blood tests and x-ray scan of the spine and pelvis.
Self-help: regular physical activities are important, especially swimming. Try to breathe deeply, sleep on a hard mattress, and do not use a pillow. Get used to sleeping on your chest, not on your back or side. All these self-help measures will help you maintain the strength of your back muscles and prevent permanent stiffness.
Professional help: a physician can refer you to a physiotherapist who will teach you specific exercises for proper posture. Your doctor may prescribe pain medicines and anti-inflammatory drugs (in the form of tablets).
A very bent spine can be corrected by osteotomy, a surgical procedure to correct bent, fractured bones. However, at each such surgery there is a risk of spinal cord injury and hence it is only applied in very severe cases. If your hips are heavily damaged due to ankylosing spondylitis, your doctor may recommend replacing the wrist with the artificial wrist.