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Ankylosing Spondylitis

What Is AS?

Your lower back pain could be from a type of inflammatory arthritis called axial spondyloarthritis or ankylosing spondylitis, or AS for short. This type of back pain is different from mechanical causes of back pain, which occur because of muscle strain, disc issues, or other problems with the way the different parts of your spine work. With AS, inflammation in the spine and sacroiliac joints (where the spine connects to the pelvis) is what causes your pain, stiffness, and other AS symptoms.

When there is damage that shows up on imaging like an X-ray, the disease is called ankylosing spondylitis. When there are similar symptoms but no visible damage on imaging, it’s called non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-AxSpA).

Common AS Symptoms

  • Pain that gets worse with inactivity or rest and better with movement
  • Pain in your ribcage, such as when you exhale
  • Pain in your heel or foot
  • ‘Alternating buttock pain’
  • Diarrhea, bloating, or GI symptoms
  • Eye redness or irritation (called uveitis)
  • Psoriasis
  • Fatigue

What To Do Next

Over time, and if left untreated, AS can cause spinal bones to fuse together. However, certain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and biologics, can reduce inflammation and help improve pain, stiffness, function, and quality of life. Lifestyle changes can help too.

It is very important that you see a health care provider and let them know you think you could be at risk of having AS. Your primary care doctor, such as an internist or family medicine doctor, is a good place to start. They will likely refer you to an arthritis specialist called a rheumatologist for a thorough evaluation.

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