The most common symptom of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is low back pain that develops so gradually,one may not notice it in the early stages.
If lower back pain persists for over 3 months, it’s important to visit a specialist, a Rheumatologist in this case. Owing to lack of awareness around this lifestyle condition, many are unaware of the difference between a mechanical back pain and an inflammatory back pain. The former is more like an insidious onset and of longer duration whereas the latter tends to be more acute and is often linked to an injury.
The kind of back pain associated with AS is considered inflammatory and occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks the joints in your spine. It is estimated that close to 69% of patients in India receive incorrect treatment and misdiagnosis before consulting a rheumatologist1.
An early diagnosis is vital to minimize chronic pain in patients and to ensure better control over the progression of the condition.
Dr Ved Chaturvedi, Consulting Rheumatologist, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi said, “Ankylosing Spondylitis is an auto inflammatory disease whose exact cause is unknown, however based on medical research it has been established that an HLA B 27 gene and intestinal bacteria are contributory factors to the condition.
Patients suffering from the condition should really be mindful of their lifestyle and focus on inculcating a positive and active lifestyle. An early effort must be put towards the remittance of the disease; if one notices inflammatory lower backache and lower limb arthritis, they should immediately consult with a Rheumatologist for an accurate treatment thereon.”
Few ways to avoid progression of AS:
Consultation with a Rheumatologist:
AS is a disease without a cure. It is important to understand the signs and symptoms of the condition to be able to detect and diagnosethem early. Most patients end up visiting General practitioners or orthopedics before going to a rheumatologist.
Once the patient has been diagnosed with the condition, accurate treatment can help significantly prevent the worsening of symptoms and ease the pain. Treatment is the key to slow down the progression of the disease and the onset of any additional conditions. To find a treatment plan that works for a patient, it is crucial to work closely with the doctor. The treatment may include biologic drugs depending on the diagnosis, which help curb the progression of the inflammation in one’s spine.
Lifestyle plays a major role in the management of a condition like AS. The condition gets better with movement, unlike mechanical pains that require the patient to rest. A regular exercise routine such as, swimming, yoga, running, light weight exercise, that keeps the bones and joints moving can help slow down the progression of the disease.
Consuming foods that are rich in Vitamin D, E, Omega 3 fatty acids, and calcium help strengthen the bones and boost immunity. Avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption is a must. AS is fuelled by incompatible lifestyle patterns and unhealthy environment.
Dr P D Rath, Consultant Rheumatologist, Max Hospital, New Delhi said, “In a condition like AS, patients must stay active and keep their joints and muscles moving throughout the day because it helps reduce inflammation. Certain lifestyle changes help negotiate a path around living with AS such as monitoring the C-reactive protein (a marker of systematic inflammation) from time to time, regular exercises, a healthy diet rich in Omega 3, flax seeds, fruits, and green vegetables. Regular medication or advanced medication such as Biologics help control the condition massively.”
It is important to understand that even though AS does not have a particular cure, it is a manageable condition. Patients must make sure they adhere to their treatment plan a long with respective lifestyle and dietary changes that work towards lowering the progression of the condition.