Spondylitis — conservative treatments versus spondylitis surgery

Spondylitis surgery is typically not required for treating the chronic joint pain associated with this condition. Spondylitis is a type of spondyloarthritis, a family of related conditions that includes ankylosing spondylitis, reactive arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, enteropathic arthritis and undifferentiated spondyloarthropathy.

A large number of patients who are diagnosed with any form of spondylitis are able to find relief through nonsurgical methods. Because there is no known cure for spondylitis, treatment is focused on managing the associated pain, stiffness and inflammation. A conservative plan designed with these goals in mind is usually enough to avoid the need for spondylitis surgery.

Common conservative treatments for spondylitis

To address the symptoms of spondylitis without surgery, a doctor will generally begin by recommending a treatment plan consisting of one or more of the following conservative options:

• Medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are usually part of a spondylitis treatment plan. For patients with severe symptoms that do not respond to NSAIDs, a course of second-line medications, such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs, may be prescribed before spondylitis surgery is suggested.

  • Exercise. A targeted exercise or physical therapy program can promote good posture, enhance flexibility, lead to weight loss and strengthen the core muscles that support the spine.
  • Weight management. Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight can reduce stress on the spine, which in turn can help relieve spondylitis symptoms.
  • Heat and ice applications. A heating pad can soothe and relax sore muscles, while an ice pack can help reduce swelling and inflammation.
  • TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation). A TENS unit sends pulses along the surface of the skin in the painful area, which can inhibit the pain signals from reaching the brain and also stimulate the production of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.

When to consider spondylitis surgery

In severe cases of spondylitis, when conservative treatments have been exhausted without bringing needed relief, surgery may be advised. For instance, spondylitis surgery can sometimes be performed to address a pronounced downward curvature of the spine. However, prior to consenting to any type of spondylitis surgery, a patient is encouraged to explore all available treatment options and seek a second, and even third, opinion. Laser Spine Institute does not perform surgery to treat spondylitis, but our dedicated team is happy to help patients learn more about their treatment options and find the relief they deserve.