Treating ankylosing spondylitis

Although there is no cure and no prevention for ankylosing spondylitis, there are steps to take in order to maintain your standard of living and to minimize the pain.


Optimally, you receive a whole range of treatments when having AS. Taking painkillers is most likely not enough to maintain your well-being, since your joints can become so stiff, that your mobility can be compromised. You need a treatment plan that involves moving, in order to minimize inflammation, stiffness and pain. A combination of different actions is needed in order to give yourself the best possible starting point.

How to treat ankylosing spondylitis?

Medication: There are different kinds of medications you can choose from, with some help from your doctor. The most commonly used kind is the NSAID's (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These are also the primary medication offered to patients. The secondary medication, "second line medications", are disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). They are normally prescribed for other kinds of arthritis, but have proven beneficial if peripheral joints are involved, rather than the spine. The treatment of AS is constantly being researched and recently a new treatment has seen the daylight, the TNF blockers (biologics). Previously it has been difficult to treat spinal arthritis, but this new type of medicine reaches both joint- and spinal arthritis.

Exercise : Exercising is important to anyone who wants to lead a more healthy lifestyle. For patients with ankylosing spondylitis, exercising is particularly important since it relieves pain and keeps you mobile. Some patients struggle with the exercises because they are in too much pain, but in the long run you will be doing better if you stick to the exercises. The benefits are threefold.

1: It can help you maintain a good posture (which can be challenging with AS)
2: It fights the AS stiffness and keep your joints flexible
3: It will help ease the pain

Quick-fixes: If you are in dire need of pain relief, hot and cold water respectively, can help you. When applying heat to stiff joints and sore muscles, it helps them become relaxed and hence it can reduce pain and tightness. If you struggle with inflammation and swelling, you can use cold water to decrease the swelling.

Surgery: In the very severe cases of ankylosing spondylitis, surgery can be an option. Especially joint replacements in hips and knees are common in these cases. For the few patients who experience the spinal fusion (growth of extra bone on the spine, causing a forward-curved back), it is possible to receive surgical corrections.

Last updated: 30/05/2018

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