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What is the Most Common Ankylosing Spondylitis Treatment?

By D. Jeffress
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that causes pain, inflammation, and a loss of flexibility in the spine. It is a chronic and progressive condition, meaning that symptoms tend to worsen over time and can ultimately become debilitating. Ankylosing spondylitis treatment depends on several factors, including the age of the patient, severity of symptoms, and the degree of physical damage to the vertebral joints. The most common ankylosing spondylitis treatment is a combination of anti-inflammatory medications and ongoing physical therapy. Severe cases of spine pain and deformity usually require surgical intervention to correct problems and reduce the risk of serious health complications.

Doctors are unsure what causes ankylosing spondylitis, which makes it difficult to fully understand what types of treatment and preventive measures are the most effective. There is currently no cure for the condition, but most patients are able to manage their symptoms and enjoy regular activity with a course of daily medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are usually effective at reducing pain and swelling in the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis. A person with progressively worsening symptoms may be given oral or injected corticosteroids to further relieve symptoms.

If corticosteroids are ineffective, a patient may benefit medications that are designed to reduce the inflammatory response of rheumatoid arthritis. Tumor necrosis factor drugs can supplement antirheumatics by actively preventing inflammation from returning. Such medications can potentially affect liver, kidney, and even brain functioning, so doctors are careful when prescribing them and usually suggest that patients attend regular health checkups to avoid serious side effects.

In addition to taking medicine, patients are typically enrolled in physical therapy classes as part of their ankylosing spondylitis treatment. A licensed physical therapist can help an individual develop a steady exercise routine to improve flexibility and strength in his or her back. Depending on the patient's abilities, he or she might be instructed to perform light stretching exercises, take walks or jogs, or lift weights. By engaging in regular physical therapy and taking medications as prescribed by a doctor, a patient can usually maintain an active, fulfilling lifestyle.

Surgical ankylosing spondylitis treatment is reserved for people who suffer from late-stage, debilitating spine problems. The most common surgical procedure for the condition is called a vertebral osteotomy, in which two or more affected vertebrae are permanently fused together to prevent recurring inflammation. Shoulder or hip replacement surgery may be needed if spine deformities cause serious problems in the joints. Several months of bed rest and ongoing physical therapy are typically needed after surgical ankylosing spondylitis treatment. Most patients are permanently limited in their mobility to some degree, but they are also relieved of chronic pain.

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