Spondylitis FAQ — frequently asked questions

Being diagnosed with spondylitis can bring a lot of questions. While your doctor is the best person to ask about specific questions you have about your condition, at Laser Spine Institute we want to help as many patients as we can get useful information. Our physicians are often asked to address these common questions about spondylitis:

Q: What is spondylitis?

A: This term is used to describe a family of related conditions that cause chronic pain, stiffness and inflammation of the spinal joints. The sites where tendons and ligaments attach to bones can also be affected. Specific conditions in this group include ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, juvenile spondyloarthritis, enteropathic arthritis and undifferentiated spondyloarthritis.

Q: What are the causes?

A: While the precise causes remain unknown, some experts believe that these conditions can be linked to certain genetic and environmental factors. For instance, the gene HLA-B27 has been associated with a susceptibility to developing ankylosing spondylitis. However, it is important to note that while most people with ankylosing spondylitis have this genetic marker, only a small percentage of people with the gene actually develop the condition.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: The most common symptoms of spondylitis are pain and stiffness. Some patients experience only occasional episodes, while others have severe, ongoing pain and loss of flexibility. In extreme cases, long-term inflammation of the spine can lead to the fusing together of two or more vertebral bones.

Q: What are some treatment options?

A: The most commonly recommended treatment plan for all forms of spondylitis incorporates one or more of the following conservative measures: pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, posture therapy, exercise and applications of heat and ice to help relax muscles and relieve joint pain. In severe cases, surgery may be considered to address debilitating symptoms that do not improve sufficiently in response to nonsurgical treatment approaches. Laser Spine Institute does not offer minimally invasive spine surgery to treat spondylitis. However, our Care Team can help you find conservative treatment options that offer relief.

Q: Will I need surgery?

A: If your symptoms persist or worsen following several weeks or months of conservative spondylitis treatment, you might be a candidate for spinal surgery. However, surgery is generally considered a last resort that is recommended only when severe joint damage is affecting a patient’s quality of life. For individualized advice and guidance, you should consult with a rheumatologist who is familiar with your case. Laser Spine Institute does not offer minimally invasive surgery to treat spondylitis.