Ankylosing spondylitis — understanding your treatment options

Once a patient is diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a specific form of the group of inflammatory diseases called spondylitis, formulating a treatment plan is an important next step. This condition causes the body’s own defense mechanisms to begin attacking healthy tissues. In cases of ankylosing spondylitis, the immune system targets healthy vertebrae, spinal discs and other tissues in the spine. The inflammation that characterizes ankylosing spondylitis typically begins in the pelvis and can spread to other areas of the spine up to the neck, eventually leading to the permanent fusing of vertebrae. Severe spinal deformities and loss of mobility may result.

Easing spondylitis symptoms

Like other forms of arthritis, there is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, so treatment aims to relieve the associated symptoms of tender, swollen joints; intermittent to chronic lower back pain; stiffness and reduced range of motion. Initially, a doctor will likely recommend a course of conservative treatments. Common options may include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • TNF blockers — drugs that inhibit tumor necrosis factor in the body, a chemical that promotes the body’s inflammatory response
  • Pain medication
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Hot/cold therapies
  • Learning how to maintain a good posture
  • Bracing

Low-impact exercise, stretching, and physical therapy are particularly important spondylitis treatment methods, as maintaining a certain range of motion for everyday activity can help preserve spinal joints, as well as relieve stiffness.

What about surgery?

Although most patients can find relief with conservative spondylitis treatment in the early stages of the condition, surgery may become necessary for those who experience severe deformities, spinal instability or nerve compression. In these cases, portions of spinal bone may be cut away and reshaped, and segments of the spine may be stabilized with implantations and other fusion techniques.

While Laser Spine Institute does not offer minimally invasive surgery to treat ankylosing spondylitis, our dedicated team can help you find conservative treatment options to help relieve your symptoms. Contact us to learn more.