Ankylosing Spondylitis – Can Physio Help?
Ankylosing spondylitis, also known as AS or bamboo spine, is a disease is a type of arthritis. It causes inflammation mainly in the spine, though it can affect other joints such as the sternum, hip, or ribs.
What causes ankylosing spondylitis?
The simple answer is, we do not know. Research so far suggests that the disease is related to the presence of a particular gene called the HLA-B27 gene in your body. However, this is still currently debated and is by no means confirmed. The reality is, we do not know what causes ankylosing spondylitis and it usually appears without any specific trigger. It is also not linked to any specific movement, injuries, or any other medical condition.
What are the symptoms?
Some of the stiffness are very similar to regular arthritis, but some are unique to ankylosing spondylitis. These include:
- Gradual onset of back pain and back stiffness eventually resulting in a fusing of your spine
- Stiffness and pain in the morning
- Improvement of symptoms after heat treatment or warm showers/bath
- Disturbed sleep
- Diarrhoea like symptom, though this is less common
Can I prevent ankylosing spondylitis?
The bad news is, there is no way to prevent ankylosing spondylitis. However, there are ways to prevent it from getting worse and minimise the symptoms. One of the ways that you can do this is to maintain an active lifestyle. Because immobility makes the condition worse, exercises that helps mobilse your spine reduces the symptoms.
Smoking has also been shown to cause the spine to fuse more. This means that your spine will be much stiffer, and your mobility will be much more restricted. If you’re a smoker, quitting is highly recommended to reduce complications with ankylosing spondylitis.
How does physiotherapy help?
Your physiotherapist can help with a few aspects:
- pain relief – using heat therapy, electrotherapy, taping, and soft tissue massage
- maximising range of movement – using stretching techniques, joint mobilisation, and exercises
- long term management – your physio will help you with crafting a personalised low impact exercise program that will help maintain your mobility and reduce your pain
Winsen graduated from University of Melbourne in 2012. He worked in organisations of various sizes such as Singapore General Hospital, Pain Relief Practice, and Physioclinic before working at Elevate Physiotherapy. He specialises in sports and musculoskeletal injuries and has worked with athletes of various sports such as fencing, dancing, dragon boating, and cycling.
In his spare time he enjoys singing and playing chess.