Spondylitis symptoms and diagnosis

If you have received a diagnosis of spondylitis (also known as ankylosing spondylitis), you may be confused as to what exactly is wrong with your spine. Spondylitis is actually an umbrella term that describes a variety of chronic, arthritis-based conditions involving inflammation of the spine’s vertebrae and facet joints. Depending on what form of spondylitis is present, your symptoms and treatment options may vary. For this reason, you should consult with a physician regarding the details of your diagnosis, the specific symptoms you are experiencing and what treatment options may be best for your unique needs.

Spondylitis symptoms

Generally speaking, the most common symptom associated with spondylitis is severe lower back pain. Other common symptoms include:

  • Neck and back stiffness
  • Unusual spinal curvature
  • Limited range of motion
  • Chronic or brief episodes of discomfort when sitting, walking or standing
  • Swollen, warm or tender facet joints
  • Fatigue

These symptoms typically appear in early adulthood and progress slowly. Individuals with the most severe cases of spondylitis may develop fused vertebrae, causing impaired mobility.

As with many other spinal conditions, spondylitis may also trigger pain and dysfunction in other parts of the body. Some patients report experiencing eye inflammation, knee and hip pain, weight loss and difficulty breathing.

The diagnosis of spondylitis

Spondylitis is usually diagnosed by a rheumatologist — a physician who is specially trained to detect and treat certain diseases that affect the bones, joints, muscles and connective tissues.

When evaluating a patient for spondylitis, a rheumatologist will likely begin by performing a physical exam to check for tenderness and inflammation along the spine, sacroiliac joints and pelvic bones. Spinal mobility will also be evaluated. If this physical exam indicates the need for further testing, an MRI may be recommended to get a closer look at the spine.

It’s important to note that spondylitis is not a simple condition to diagnose. Its symptoms mimic that of many other spinal conditions, and telltale signs of early onset spondylitis can be difficult to spot through an X-ray or scan. If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with spondylitis, we encourage you to visit your physician or rheumatologist, who will be able to monitor your symptoms, answer any questions you may have and suggest treatments to address your discomfort.

Laser Spine Institute does not treat ankylosing spondylitis, but we can assist patients with finding appropriate treatment options, either noninvasive or surgical, to help alleviate some of the discomfort associated with this condition.