Treatment Options for Ankylosing Spondylitis

By Dr. Robert Josey on June 16, 2017

An illustration of a spineIf you are suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, treatment is available. Although there is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, with early diagnosis and treatment it may be possible to control pain and prevent stiffness. For some, spine surgery may be the best solution for alleviating the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis.

The team at Orthopaedic Specialists of Austin uses the latest techniques in the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis at their state-of-the-art practice in Austin, TX. To find out which treatments are right for you, contact our team today. In the meantime, let's take a closer look at the variety of treatment options available for managing ankylosing spondylitis.

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine. Over time, ankylosing spondylitis can lead to the vertebrae fusing together. This causes the spine to become rigid and may cause posture to become hunched forward. In some cases, the ribs may be affected, impacting a person's ability to breathe. Anylosing spondylitis typically affects more men than women, with symptoms often beginning in early adulthood.

Treatment of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis cannot be cured, but with early diagnosis and proper treatment, symptoms may be managed and the progression of the disease may be slowed. Through a combination of treatments, it may be possible to reduce pain, improve flexibility of the spine, and prevent problems with posture. Treatments for ankylosing spondylitis include:

  • Exercise: Following a daily exercise regimen can help strengthen the back muscles and joints while promoting flexibility and reducing stiffness. Low impact stretching exercises, like yoga, pilates, and t'ai chi, are particularly beneficial as they help increase flexibility while increasing core strength. Swimming is also beneficial for those with ankylosing spondylitis, as are deep breathing exercises. 
  • Physical and occupational therapy: Both physical and occupational therapy is important to maintaining spinal flexibility and reducing the risk of deformity. Starting physical and occupational therapy early can help slow the progression of ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Medications: Medications are available to help those who suffer from ankylosing spondylitis find relief from pain and stiffness. Common medications for ankylosing spondylitis include ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). For those with more severe symptoms, methotrexate or other disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) may be combined with NSAIDs. In recent years, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved new drugs called biologics, a common brand being Humira, to treat ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Steroid injections: For some people, steroid injections into affected areas of the spine may help alleviate symptoms.  
  • Surgery: Surgery may be recommended in cases of severe pain and joint damage. There are different types of surgery that may be performed depending on the severity and specifics of each patient's condition. Two common types of surgery for ankylosing spondylitis include osteotomy and spinal fusion. With an osteotomy, areas of bone deformities are removed from the spine. Spinal fusion may be combined with an osteotomy or performed alone to stabilize the spinal column.

Learn More about Your Treatment Options

For more information about treatments for ankylosing spondylitis and to find out which treatments may be right for you, we welcome you to schedule a consultation with our team of orthopaedic specialists today.

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