9 Facts About Ankylosing Spondylitis, a Surprising Cause of Back Pain

Back pain is very common, and it can be caused by everything from heavy lifting to muscle strain. But one lesser known cause of back pain that you might not be aware of is a chronic condition called ankylosing spondylitis, or AS.

Although the name may sound complicated, ankylosing spondylitis (pronounced an-kih-LOH’-sihng spahn-dih-LY’-tihs), is essentially a type of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, but it can move to other joints. It affects about 1 percent of the U.S. adult population; that’s about the same percentage of people who are affected by rheumatoid arthritis, although AS is far less well known.

In ankylosing spondylitis, inflammation causes chronic pain and stiffness, and the severity can vary from person to person. There’s no cure for AS, but certain healthy lifestyle tactics can help make living with ankylosing spondylitis easier.

9 Surprising Facts About Ankylosing Spondylitis

1. Ankylosing spondylitis tends to strike at a young age. Unlike other forms of arthritis, AS often appears between ages 17 and 45, according to the Spondylitis Association of America. The peak age of onset is 20 to 30 years old, according to a review published in the journal Anaesthesia. However, children as well as adults over 45 can also be affected.

2. Back pain is not the only symptom. The most common early symptoms of AS are frequent pain and stiffness in the lower back and buttocks that comes on over the course of a few weeks or months. At first, you may experience discomfort on one side, or alternate sides, but ultimately, you’ll typically feel pain on both sides, usually lasting for at least three months. But back pain is not the only sign of ankylosing spondylitis. Besides affecting the spine, AS can also cause problems in the joints of the hips, shoulder blades, ribs, heels, thighs, hands, feet, and neck.

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