As with any chronic illness, spondylitis treatment focuses on treating symptoms and mitigating their effects on the patient’s day-to-day life. Spondylitis is a form of spondyloarthropathy – or spinal osteoarthritis. In general, all forms of spondyloarthropathy are chronic, life-long diseases; they can be treated, but not cured.
What is spondylitis?
Simply put, spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine and sacroiliac joints, and may affect other joints, as well. It is characterized by inflammation of the sacroiliac joints (where the hip bones meet the sacrum, or lower spine), the facet joints of the spine and even the intervertebral spaces and discs. In addition, spondylitis normally includes the fusing of ligaments and other soft tissue in the joints to the bone, and in some cases, the spontaneous fusion of bones such as the vertebrae – a condition known as ankylosing spondylitis. In all forms of spondylitis, there is no indication that another type of arthritis is at work.
Treatment of spondylitis, or any spondyloarthropathy, begins with the basics:
- Pain medication
- Anti-inflammatory therapy (including heat/cold treatment, medication)
In addition, since spondyloarthropathy patients are prone to joint fusion, exercise and physical therapy during spondylitis treatment will focus on flexion of the vulnerable joints – especially the spine – and the maintenance of proper posture. One of the visible effects of spondylitis is a stooped posture resulting from the degeneration, inflammation and fusion of vertebrae.
Spondylitis and related conditions
Treating the symptoms in some cases, will include treating other conditions that spring up as a result of the particular spondyloarthropathy. For example, psoriatic arthritis – another form of spondylitis – causes skin inflammation and other symptoms of psoriasis; the patient must receive psoriasis treatment in tandem with spondylitis treatment. In more advanced cases of spondylitis, surgery may be necessary – particularly with advanced ankylosing spondylitis, which can result in total spinal fusion if left untreated.