Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a mouthful. Most people probably aren’t familiar with this condition, but in plain words it’s essentially a form of arthritis that affects the spine. Not surprisingly, there are a slew of uncomfortable symptoms that come along with this condition. The most common are back pain, stiffness, and inflammation. These symptoms can be felt anywhere from the neck to the lower back and, in serious cases, can cause a hunched-over posture or breathing problems, says WebMD.
The key to dealing with this condition is early diagnosis and receiving treatment to help control the symptoms and prevent any further problems. As part of this, we should all be aware of the signs and symptoms to look for and what ankylosing spondylitis might feel like…
1. Pain and Stiffness
As we already briefly mentioned, AS typically causes a great deal of pain and stiffness in the back, which can also travel into the buttocks and hips. The condition tends to start in the sacroiliac joints, “where the sacrum (the lowest major part of the spine) joins the ilium bone of the pelvis in the lower back region,” writes WebMD. In the beginning, the patient will likely feel pain mostly at night and find that it gets better in the morning, or even as the condition progresses, there might be periods of little pain until a flare-up occurs. However, this joint pain can also be felt in the knees, shoulders, and jaw.
People who suffer from this condition might feel a little bit like the tin man from the Wizard of Oz, who needs to oil his joints in order to move! Reader’s Digest talked to Suleman Bhana, MD, a rheumatologist in Middletown, New York, who points out that the stiffness starts in the lower back and buttocks, but can spread up the spine and into the neck. “Stiffness is usually worse during the morning,” he says.