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

6. Smoking worsens ankylosing spondylitis. Although smoking isn’t healthy for anyone, it’s especially important not to smoke if you have ankylosing spondylitis. According to a study published in June 2013 in the journal Expert Review of Clinical Immunology, smoking can lead to more severe AS, less function, and lower quality of life, in addition to negatively affecting the lungs and heart.

7. Ankylosing spondylitis can cause the spine to fuse. “Ankylosing spondylitis, as the name suggests, fuses (ankyloses) the spine (spondyl),” Dr. Anand says. “The ligaments surrounding the spine become bony tissue, and the term ‘bamboo spine’ is commonly used, as the spine becomes one long and rigid bone.”

8. Ankylosing spondylitis may be linked to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). About 2 to 3 percent of people with IBD also have ankylosing spondylitis, according to the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation. IBD is a term for certain conditions that involve chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. In people with the genetic marker for AS, ankylosing spondylitis sometimes develops after urinary or bowel infections. Having ankylosing spondylitis may also foreshadow the development of an IBD.

9. Rest might not be best for ankylosing spondylitis. Discomfort caused by ankylosing spondylitis is typically worse after resting. Back pain from AS is generally better after exercising or taking a hot bath or shower.

If you have persistent back pain that doesn’t respond to self-help strategies, see your doctor for a thorough examination and the proper evaluation needed to diagnose ankylosing spondylitis.


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