It never hurts to get a 2nd opinion. Here is some information you might find helpful:
In recent years, advances have been made in the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis and related diseases. There is a lot that can be done to relieve the pain and stiffness of the AS and recent studies show that the new biologic medications (TNF-a Inhibitors) can potentially slow or halt the disease progression in some people.
A common treatment regimen involves medication, exercise and possibly physical therapy, good posture practices, and other treatment options such as applying heat/cold to help relax muscles and reduce joint pain. In severe cases of AS, surgery may also be an option.
Very often, it will be a rheumatologist that will outline a treatment plan, but remember that other professional may also be able to help. Click here to learn more about the doctors and professionals who can help in the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis in our Patient Resource section.
You and your doctor can decide which of the following medications, if any, are best for you.
NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are still the cornerstone of treatment and the first stage of medication in treating the pain and stiffness associated with AS. However, NSAIDs can cause significant side effects, in particular, damage to the gastrointestinal tract.
When NSAIDs are not enough, the next stage of medications, (also known as second line medications), are sometimes called disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. This group of medications include: Sulfasalazine, Methotrexate and Corticosteroids.
The most recent and most promising medications for treating ankylosing spondylitis are the biologics, or TNF Blockers. These drugs have been shown to be highly effective in treating not only the arthritis of the joints, but also the spinal arthritis. Included in this group are Enbrel, Remicade and Humira.
Click here to learn more in our AS Medications section.
Stay Informed During Treatment
It is best to learn as much as possible about ankylosing spondylitis and to stay informed during treatment. Remember: knowledge is power. Educational Materials are available as a valuable resource.
Exercise in an integral part of any AS management program. Regular daily exercises can help create better posture and flexibility as well as help lessen pain. Most people with AS feel much better with exercise.
A properly trained physical therapist with experience in helping those with ankylosing spondylitis can be a valuable guide in regards to exercise. Click here to learn more about exercise in our Patient Resources section.
Practicing good posture techniques will also help avoid some of the complications of AS including stiffness and flexion deformities (downward curvature) of the spine. Click here to learn more about posture in our Patient Resources section.
Applying heat to stiff joints and tight muscles can help reduce pain and soreness. Applying cold to inflamed areas can help reduce swelling. Hot baths and showers can also help provide relief.
In severe cases of AS, surgery can be an option in the form of joint replacements, particularly in the knees and hips. Surgical correction is also possible for those with severe flexion deformities (severe downward curvature) of the spine, particularly in the neck, although this procedure is considered risky. Click here to learn more about surgery in our Patient Resources section.
Other Symptom Management Tools
Alternative treatments such as massage and using a TNS unit (electrical stimulators for pain) can also aide in pain relief. Maintaining a healthy body weight and balanced diet can also aide in treatment.