What is spondylitis?

Spondylitis refers to a condition that occurs due to an inflammation in the joints of your spine. When the joints between your vertebrae get inflamed, they swell and increase in size, causing pain and stiffness in the back. This condition is also referred to as spondyloarthritis of SpA. Spondylitis is a common condition that affects 1 in every 1000 people around the world. 

We often use the words spondylosis vs spondylitis interchangeably.  However, these two conditions are completely different from each other. Here’s the difference between spondylosis vs spondylitis. While spondylitis is an inflammation of the joints and discs of your spine, spondylosis means the age-related wear and tear that affects your spine. This condition or cervical spondylosis causes the disks and cartilage to lose moisture and become rigid over time. 

What are the different types of spondylitis?

There are two ways in which spondylitis types are categorized- Traditional and the Newer classification system:

Traditional classification:

  • Ankylosing spondylitis: This is the inflammation of the spine or the pelvis that causes back pain.

  • Enteropathic Arthritis: This refers to the inflammation of the intestine including the bowels.

  • Psoriatic Arthritis: This is the condition where arthritis is coupled with psoriasis, redness, and rash-causing skin condition.

  • Reactive Arthritis: This is when joint inflammation is caused due to an intestinal or urinary tract infection.

  • Undifferentiated Arthritis: This is when your symptoms don’t fit into the classic symptoms of spondylitis.

  • Juvenile spondylitis: This refers to the arthritic condition that begins in childhood

Newer classification:

  • Peripheral spondyloarthritis: This refers to the condition that causes inflammation outside the spinal tendons.
  • Axial spondyloarthritis: This means an inflammation in the spine or pelvis that leads to back pain.

What are the signs and symptoms of spondylitis?

Here are spondylitis symptoms and signs that you should be aware of:

  • Constant stiffness, soreness, and pain in the back
  • Pain that gets worse after resting or waking up in the morning
  • Recurring fever
  • Headaches
  • Constant feelings of fatigue and tiredness without exertion

Some uncommon spondylitis symptoms include nausea, dizziness, and loss of bowel and bladder control.

What causes spondylitis?

Here are some of the most common spondylitis causes:

  • Ageing related inflammation of the spinal discs and joints
  • Family history of spondylitis
  • Smoking
  • Leading an inactive and sedentary lifestyle
  • Obesity
  • Jobs that require repetitive back movement or lifting heavyweights
  • Back injuries 

How is spondylitis diagnosed?

An early diagnosis is essential to not just ascertain the spondylitis causes but to also guide the proper line of treatment, which is critical for pain relief irrespective of the spondylitis type. A diagnosis is also important for ruling out other overlapping conditions that may mimic the symptoms of spondylitis arthritis.

Here is how spondylitis is usually diagnosed:

  • Your doctor may conduct a physical examination to check your range of motion and to know the pain points.

  • Imaging tests: You may be advised imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI, or CT scan, to ascertain the changes in your bones and joints. 

  • Lab tests: You may be advised of specific blood tests to check for inflammation markers.


How is spondylitis treated?

There is no known cure for this condition. Spondylitis treatment is aimed at providing relief from pain, inflammation, and symptoms and curtailing the condition from progressing further and causing permanent deformity and disability.

Spondylitis treatment usually involves:

  • Medications: You may be advised of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and stiffness. In case this spondylitis treatment doesn’t work, you may be prescribed biologic medications or TNF blockers that reduce inflammation-causing cell proteins.

  • Surgery: Though most patients don’t need surgical interventions for spondylitis. However, if you suffer from severe pain or joint damage that is not getting cured by non-surgical treatments, you may have to undergo surgery.

  • Lifestyle changes: To cope with spondylitis arthritis, you will be advised to stay active, quit smoking, maintain a good posture, and heat & ice therapy.

How do exercises benefit spondylitis?

Out of all these treatments, spondylitis physical exercises have proven to be the most beneficial. Exercising not just helps alleviate the physical symptoms of spondylitis, but it also helps you cope mentally with pain and discomfort.

Here are some of the most important exercising benefits for this condition:

  • Exercising improves circulation, which helps make your joints and muscles relaxed. This leads to pain reduction.
  • Improved circulation also prevents and reduces joint stiffness.
  • Spondylitis physical exercises improve your bone density and prevent injuries.
  • Spondylitis exercise helps in weight management. This decreases excessive pressure on your joints and bones, thereby alleviating pain and stiffness.
  • Exercising makes you more positive and lends a happier state of mind. This in turn lets you respond better to medications.

Which are some of the best exercises for spondylitis?

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

  1. Bridge: This is an excellent exercise to relieve back pain and improve your balance and posture. 

  • Lie on your back, bend your knees, and place your feet flat on the floor.
  • Lift your lower back gently off the floor.
  • Hold the pose for 5-7 seconds and lower yourself down.

  1. Superman: This is a great spondylitis treatment exercise to strengthen your spinal muscles and thereby reduce pain and stiffness.

  • Kneel or lie on the floor.
  • Lift your left arm and left leg till they are parallel to the floor.
  • Hold the pose for 5-8 seconds.
  • Come back to the starting position and repeat on the other side. 

Other therapeutic spondylitis treatment exercises include home workouts such as breathing exercises, walking, swimming, yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates. Avoid exercises that involve the use of heavy weights or are high-impact such as tennis, running, or squash. 

Suffering from spondylitis doesn’t mean that you need to live with pain. Besides getting an early diagnosis and treatment, it is essential to make lifestyle changes that keep you active help cope with this condition. Maintaining a good posture, eating a well-balanced diet, and avoiding smoking, go a long way in helping you deal with spondylitis. 

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