Ankylosing spondylitis treatment (AS) is a chronic illness related to arthritis that affects the bones in the spine, causing pain, inflammation and an autoimmune response, and in many cases leading to the eventual fusion of the affected regions in the spinal column.
While it is a chronic disease and thus incurable, a number of treatment options have been developed to control and mitigate the symptoms associated with this condition, with the primary objectives being to alleviate pain and inflammation and minimize spinal deformities.
Nearly all AS patients will be prescribed a medication regimen including some combination of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFa) blockers which will help to reduce inflammation, control pain and provide effective immune system suppression to aid with the autoimmune component of the disease.
In certain cases, it may be necessary to use opioid analgesics, typically in prolonged-release formulations, which have proven to be particularly effective for targeting the kind chronic pain experienced by AS sufferers.
Physical Therapy & Exercise
In conjunction with medication, physiotherapy is one of the most important parts of successful ankylosing spondylitis treatment. Physical therapy, conditioning exercises and breathing exercises are all critical for maintaining the core strength required for good posture, which has been shown to minimize spinal curvature and reduce symptoms.
Because the pain associated with AS is typically lessened during activity, patients who regularly exercise tend to experience less stiffness and pain than those who do not. Swimming is a low impact exercise that is generally preferred by patients suffering from AS and other joint-related conditions; higher impact activities such as running are not recommended since they can be jarring to affected areas and may actually increase stiffness and pain.
Surgery is also an option in severe cases of AS, most commonly in the form of joint replacement of either the knees or hips. Surgical correction of particularly severe spinal flexion deformations is also possible, though considered to be extremely risky.
Other Tools and Techniques
Assistive walking devices can be a very effective tool for AS patients, reducing the strain on joints while allowing for increased mobility and physical activity. In addition, some people find that alternating applications of heat and cold, which respectively serve to ease pain and decrease inflammation, can be effective when done under the guidance of a qualified physical therapist.
Some alternative treatments including acupuncture, yoga and other slow muscle stretching exercises like Pilates have also has good results in relieving pain and improving overall quality of life.
Education plays an important role in ankylosing spondylitis treatments. Understanding the nature of the disease, what to expect from it, and what types of treatment are most effective is a huge step toward mentally preparing yourself for the reality of an AS diagnosis.
The real benefits associated with maintaining a positive and proactive outlook cannot be discounted. While the disease itself is incurable, the combination of some or all of these Ankylosing spondylitis treatments has shown great promise in relieving pain, minimizing symptoms, and allowing patients to continue to lead relatively normal day to day lives.