Spondylitis is general term for a complex group of conditions that are actually considered types of arthritis. The most commonly known of these conditions is ankylosing spondylitis, which mainly affects the pelvis and spine. Unlike many other sources of back pain, spondylitis is inflammatory in nature, so it causes different symptoms and requires different treatment methods than mechanical sources of pain, such as pulled muscles.
Receiving a diagnosis
Diagnosing spondylitis can be a tricky process, but most physicians begin by listening to a patient’s complaints about pain, stiffness and other symptoms. A physician can then conduct a physical exam to determine if spondylitis might be to blame — and if so, how far it has progressed. Imaging tests can also be helpful for spotting the structural changes that accompany ankylosing spondylitis, although they are limited in their diagnostic capabilities, particularly in the earlier stages of the disease.
The causes of spondylitis are as of yet unknown, but they are likely both genetic and environmental in nature. Although scientists have shown a potential link between a certain gene and the occurrence of ankylosing spondylitis, not everyone with the gene will have the condition.
In the case of ankylosing spondylitis, there are a whole range of associated symptoms that can affect the entire body, including pain in any of the following areas:
- The heels
- The sacroiliac (SI) joint that connects the base of the spine to the pelvis
- Any portion of the spine
- The hips
- The shoulders
- The area between the sternum and ribs
Other associated issues include problems with vision and light sensitivity, which are also signs of spreading inflammation.
Available treatment methods
Most patients with ankylosing spondylitis are directed to follow a regimen of treatments to minimize their symptoms. This usually includes physical therapy, stretching and exercising to keep the body limber and strong, as well as taking medications to manage swelling and pain. Applying heat and/or ice to the affected joints can relax and soothe the surrounding muscles and improve blood flow to the area.
When to consider surgery
In some severe cases, surgery may be an option for people with this kind of inflammatory arthritis. No approach can completely stop or reverse the damage caused by ankylosing spondylitis yet, but surgery can be useful for replacing joints that have been damaged and for correcting the spinal deformities sometimes associated with the condition.
Laser Spine Institute does not treat ankylosing spondylitis at our Cincinnati surgery center or at any of our other locations. However, we can help people with the condition find treatment options to address some of the symptoms associated with it. Contact us today to learn more.