What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis, also known as the Bechtrew disease, is a chronic inflammation of the spine that causes some of your vertebrae to fuse. The inflammation usually starts in the sacroiliac joints between the pelvis and the base of the spine. This inflammation, known as sacroiliitis, when spreads to the joints between your spinal bones (vertebrae), causes ankylosing spondylitis. 

Primarily affecting the spine, this condition reduces its flexibility and range of motion and poses the risk of loss of mobility if left untreated. 

Over the last few years, there has been an alarming increase in the incidence of ankylosing spondylitis. One in every hundred people is said to be affected by this condition in our country, especially amongst the young adult population. 

Ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive condition but hardly life-threatening. Still, it interferes with your ability to lead an active life doing things that you enjoy. 

What are the different types of ankylosing spondylitis?

As for the classification, there are no known types of ankylosing spondylitis. 

What are the signs and symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis?

While some people may experience mild symptoms, others may experience persistently painful symptoms. Ankylosing spondylitis symptoms may start showing as early as 17 years but may also develop in children and older adults. 

Here are some of the most common ankylosing spondylitis symptoms that you need to look out for:

  • Pain or stiffness in the lower back, hips, shoulders, or neck.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Rashes on the skin.
  • Inability to see clearly.
  • Diarrhea and abdominal pain.
  • Unexplained weight loss coupled with the loss of appetite.

What causes ankylosing spondylitis?

Here are some of the most common ankylosing spondylitis causes:

  • Genetics is the most predominant of ankylosing spondylitis causes. Particularly people who carry the HLA-B27 gene are at an increased risk of this condition.¬†
  • Ankylosing spondylitis is more common in men than in women.
  • Medical conditions such as psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn‚Äôs disease.
  • Sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise.
  • Improper posture.
  • Chronic stress and anxiety.
  • Lack of rest and improper sleep patterns.¬†

How is ankylosing spondylitis diagnosed?

If left undiagnosed and untreated, ankylosing spondylitis may give rise to several complications including:

  • Spinal fractures
  • Osteoporosis
  • Nerve damage
  • Forward curvature of the spine.
  • Inflammation in the jaw
  • Poor quality of life
  • Feelings of depression and stress
  • Eye inflammation
  • Heart problems including arrhythmia and cardiomyopathy
  • Tightness in the chest that affects breathing

There isn’t any particular test for the diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis. After reviewing your signs and symptoms, your doctor may advise:

  • A physical examination to assess the range of motion and flexibility in your joints.
  • Imaging tests may be advised to look for spinal problems such as deformities. These include an X-Ray, CT scan, or MRI of the spine.
  • Blood test to check for the presence of the HLA-B27 gene or inflammation markers.¬†

How is ankylosing spondylitis treated?

There is no cure for this condition. Ankylosing spondylitis treatment mainly aims to prevent pains and stiffness and prevent complications such as disability and deformity. 

For the treatment to be beneficial, it needs to be administered before ankylosing spondylitis causes irreversible damage to your joints or bones. 

Here are the usual ankylosing spondylitis treatments:

  • Medications: You may be given non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. Their main function is to relieve pain, stiffness, and inflammation. If these don‚Äôt work, you may be administered biological medications that block inflammation-causing cell proteins.
  • Surgery: Though most people with this condition don‚Äôt need surgery, your doctor may advise it in case of severe joint or bone damage.
  • Heat and ice compression is a great way to get immediate relief from joint pain and soreness.¬†

How does exercising help in ankylosing spondylitis?

Exercising has tremendous benefits for everyone’s health. People suffering from ankylosing spondylitis especially benefit from staying active and exercising regularly. 

Here are some ankylosing spondylitis exercise benefits:

  • One of the most important advantages of exercising is that it strengthens your muscles and increases your range of motion. This helps in easing the pressure on your bones and joints, which in turn reduces pain.¬†
  • Exercising improves your circulation. This helps relax your tightened muscles and makes them less stiff.
  • Exercising increases your range of motion and flexibility. This not just keeps you agile but also reduces the risk for muscle atrophy and fusion of bones.
  • Exercising helps release endorphins that reduce stress and depression, usually associated with the debilitating symptoms of this condition.
  • When you combine medical treatment with exercising, its effectiveness increases manifolds and you tend to react better to the medicines.¬†¬†

Which are some of the best exercises for ankylosing spondylitis?

Wondering how to exercise to prevent ankylosing spondylitis pain and stiffness?

Here are some of the most effective home workouts that you can include in your daily routine:

Walking: This is one of the best ankylosing spondylitis exercises that are incredibly simple and fun too. This low-impact activity reduces pain and stiffness and at the same time prevents fused joints and deformities by improving your circulation and flexibility.

Ankylosing spondylitis stretching: Stretching has tremendous benefits for patients with this condition. Ankylosing spondylitis stretching prevents fused joints and improves their functional capacity. Some of the best stretching exercises that you can do include prone lying, superman, seated figure four, and lying quadriceps stretch.

Swimming: Swimming is the best exercise for ankylosing spondylitis since it not just gives makes your cardiovascular system healthy but also makes your joints suppler. And the same time, swimming exerts no pressure on your bones or joints making it a very safe exercise.

Yoga: With a focus on powerful breathing techniques and gentle but effective asanas, yoga is one of the best exercises for ankylosing spondylitis. It improves your balance and stability, enhances your flexibility, and relieves pain. 

Besides exercising and medical treatments, making healthy lifestyle changes is critical in the management of ankylosing spondylitis. Small but simple steps such as consuming a balanced diet, maintaining your optimum weight, quitting smoking, and reducing stress and anxiety in your life go a long way in helping your manage ankylosing spondylitis.

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December 22, 2021

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