What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing Spondylitis causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

At Metropolitan Pain Consultants, we treat many arthritis conditions, including ankylosing spondylitis. This painful condition primarily affects the spine, though other joints may also be involved.

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing Spondylitis, also known as “bamboo spine,” is a type of long-term arthritis. It is an inflammatory disease that affects the bones and joints connected to the spine. Inflammation of these joints results in fusion of the vertebrae, causing a loss in spinal flexibility and in some cases, curvature of the spine.

While the precise cause of ankylosing spondylitis is unknown, research has shown a link to genetic markers such as HLA-B27, a protein that has been found in over 95% of people in the Caucasian population diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis. Though a correlation has been found, it is important to note that further research is needed to understand the connection. Other ethnic groups show less strong correlations, and many people of all ethnicities carry the HLA-B27 marker never develop the disease.

Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Low back and hip pain is often the first symptom of ankylosing spondylitis. Stiffness may also be present, especially in the morning or after periods of inactivity. As the disease progresses, additional areas may become affected, such as the joint between the pelvis and base of the spine, the cartilage between the ribs and breastbone, the hip joints, and the shoulder joints.

Complications from the disease include uveitis (eye inflammation), compression fractures, heart problems (due to enlargement of the aortic valve), and neurologic problems resulting from damage to the spinal cord.

Treatment Options for Ankylosing Spondylitis

There is no known cure for ankylosing spondylitis. The goal of treatment is to reduce pain and stiffness, prevent or delay complications, and prevent or delay permanent spinal deformity.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (naproxen, ibuprofen, or indomethacin) may be used during initial treatment. Tumor necrosis factor blockers may also be prescribed (drugs such as Humira or Enbrel). Physical therapy helps improve strength and flexibility of the joints while decreasing pain and stiffness. Additional therapies may be recommended based on the severity and progression of of the condition for each individual patient.

Regenerative Medicine Options for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Regenerative medicine options such as Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapy is most effective when used in the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis, before the disease has caused irreversible joint damage. If spinal fusion has already occurred, PRP and stem cell therapy can be used to help alleviate pain by reducing inflammation and regenerating soft tissue.

PRP is an injection treatment that uses a concentration of the body’s own growth factors to accelerate healing and tissue repair. When adult stem cells are included in the injection treatment for ankylosing spondylitis, they act as natural healers, stimulating tissue re-growth and greater blood flow to the injured areas of the affected joints.

Although Platelet-Rich Plasma injections combined with stem cell therapy cannot reverse fusion of the vertebrae caused by the disease, PRP can provide relief from pain caused by the disease. PRP and stem cell therapy can also be an important measure taken to delay further spinal fusion and prevent complications.

For more information about PRP, stem cell therapies, or other pain relief treatment options for ankylosing spondylitis, contact Metropolitan Pain Consultants at 201.729.0001.