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Arthritis in the Back? It’s the Month to Celebrate Spondylitis

By Sara Butler

Treat Ankylosing Spondylitis with Chiropractic

Did you know that April is Spondylitis Awareness Month? Truthfully, I didn’t either. And you’re probably thinking “What the heck is spondylitis and why do I need to be aware of it?” Great questions -- and I’m going to give you the answers!

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)

In your life, you have an 80 percent chance of experiencing low back pain. Those are some odds, huh? Ankylosing spondylitis is a degenerative, inflammatory form of arthritis that mostly affects the spine -- but can affect the pelvis and hips too. It causes inflammation of the tissues mainly surrounding the lower back, leading to severe discomfort and chronic pain. Eventually, fusion of the vertebrae in your spine can occur.

Now, you don’t have an 80 percent chance of developing ankylosing spondylitis, but since it’s difficult to distinguish from run-of-the-mill back pain (that you do have a high chance of experiencing), it seems important that people are aware of it and what can be done to treat it as soon as possible. That’s why we celebrate it!

The Symptoms

No two people will experience symptoms of AS the same, but in general, it causes these symptoms:

  • Pain in the lower back
  • Stiffness in the lower back
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild fever
  • General discomfort all over
  • Fatigue

Pain from AS is usually felt on both sides and becomes persistent, meaning it lasts more than three months. Over the years, the pain can spread up the back to the shoulders, neck, thighs, shoulder blades, and even heels.

At the end of the day, AS is an inflammatory condition, which is why you can experience generalized pain all over.

Are You in Jeopardy?

I’m not talking about the Jeopardy! with Alex Trebek, I’m talking about the jeopardy of AS!

All that slouching and hunching you’re doing over your computer? Don’t worry, it isn’t going to cause AS, but if you have AS it sure can make it worse! While you should certainly endeavor to sit and stand up straight (just like Grandma told you), poor posture isn’t going to increase your chances of developing AS. But there are a few things that increase your risk:

  • Genetics - Science sure is a wonderful thing! Thanks to genetic research, we now know that there is a genetic component to AS that can be passed down through families. If you have the gene, you have a 1 in 20 chance of developing AS.
  • Family history - To piggyback on that whole genetics thing, if you have a family member with AS or a history of joint problems or low back pain, your risk can also be increased.
  • Sex - Women and men are impacted equally by AS, though women usually have less severe symptoms than men.
  • Age - A majority of people are diagnosed with AS before they turn 30. About 5 percent after they’re past the age of 45.
  • Frequent intestinal infections - Some researchers have concluded that recurrent bacterial infections in the digestive system might activate the gene responsible for AS. This information leads some scientists to believe that environmental factors might activate the gene.

What to Do

If you suspect you have AS, then see the chiropractors at The Joint Chiropractic. They can do a comprehensive examination and refer you to other medical providers if they suspect you have it.

If you have been diagnosed with AS, the chiropractor can help you manage your disease. If you are in the inflammatory stage, hands-on spinal manipulation of the affected areas will not be done. Instead, they can perform soft tissue techniques and help you find stretches or exercises to help keep the the joints mobile.

It’s also important to note that if you have AS and smoke, you should stop. Tobacco use contributes to inflammation and damages the connective tissue. If you need help quitting, discuss it with your chiropractor!

They’ve not yet invented a way to replace your spine, so it’s safe to say that this is your one shot to take care of the spine you’ve been given! Regular chiropractic care is one way to do that and so is listening to your body because it tells you when something is wrong. If you suspect you may have AS, don’t wait to get help. Have it checked out immediately, so you can begin to manage it as soon as possible.

In the meantime, make your grandma proud -- sit up straight!

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