Common Ankylosing Spondylitis Questions

What is ankylosing spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by pain and progressive stiffness. It mainly affects the spine, but other parts of the body can be affected as well. AS is part of a group of rheumatic diseases termed seronegative spondyloarthropathies. "Spondyloarthopathy" is the medical term for a disease that affects the vertebral joints. AS is also referred to as radiographic axial spondyloarthritis.
Lateral cervical x-ray demonstrates ankylosing spondylitisLateral cervical x-ray demonstrates ankylosing spondylitis. By James Heilman, MD (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

What causes ankylosing spondylitis?

The precise cause of ankylosing spondylitis isn't known, but the medical community does have some ideas about what could cause it. They think it may be hereditary, and AS possibly has a connection to certain bacteria.

What are the non-surgical options for treating ankylosing spondylitis?

  • Bracing
  • Exercise
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Specific medications
  • Physical therapy (PT)
  • Self-care techniques

What if I need ankylosing spondylitis surgery?

Most patients with ankylosing spondylitis don't need surgery. However, there may come a time when your doctor will recommend surgery. If, for example, there's neurologic deficit—meaning that there are problems with the nerves—the doctor may recommend surgery.

To treat ankylosing spondylitis, several surgical procedures are available to the spinal surgeon. The surgeon will recommend the best procedure for you, based on various factors (age, location of the deformity, severity of the deformity, etc.). Some spinal procedures used to treat ankylosing spondylitis are:

  • Osteotomy
  • Decompression
  • Spinal Instrumentation and Fusion
Updated on: 12/10/19
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Ankylosing Spondylitis and Posture
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Ankylosing Spondylitis and Posture

People with ankylosing spondylitis need to focus on maintaining good spinal alignment. Square your shoulders, and keep your head relaxed and facing straight ahead. When standing, imagine your ears, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles falling in a straight line.
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