The spine, which supports the head upward and is connected to the pelvis below, is a bone structure that supports the body and serves as a central axis to maintain equilibrium, as well as protecting the spinal cord, which acts as an intermediate bridge between the brain and peripheral nerves. . When a problem occurs in the spine, which performs such an important function, various infections, tumors, fractures, and related diseases such as degenerative diseases occur. Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease in which the spine becomes stiff due to inflammation and calcification in the area where bones and tendons are attached. It is classified as an autoimmune disease that attacks normal tissues due to abnormalities in the body’s immune system.
Although the main cause of ankylosing spondylitis is not yet clear, it is said to be closely related to the gene called HLA-B27, which is one of the genes that plays an important role in the immune function in the human body. HLA-B27 is positive in more than 90% of patients with ankylosing spondylitis, and it is known that if there is an ankylosing spondylitis patient in the family and HLA-B27 is positive, the incidence rate is high at 10-30%. However, since HLA-B27 is found in about 5% of healthy people, it is known that the occurrence is affected by environmental factors such as bacterial infection, trauma, and overwork. Now, let’s learn more about the main symptoms, treatment, and management of ankylosing spondylitis.
Main symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis
Symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis vary slightly from person to person, and the most common initial symptom is low back pain. This kind of back pain occurs in almost all patients and progresses little by little over a long period of time. After waking up from sleep, the lower back becomes stiff for about 3 hours and the pain is felt, and the lower back pain gradually weakens and disappears during activity. And not only the lower back, but also pain or swelling in the hip joint and shoulder joint, and pain in the heel, peripheral joints, soles of the feet, and the breastbone can also occur. In addition to the joints, it can also affect other organs, such as the eyes, lungs, heart, kidneys, stomach, and prostate.
If the treatment time for ankylosing spondylitis is missed or left untreated, stiffness of the spine may occur, and it may be difficult to move the spine in all directions. In addition, if the breastbone is stiff, the chest does not expand, and shortness of breath may occur even with light exercise. In addition, ankylosing spondylitis can cause complications in the lungs, heart, and nervous system, including uveitis and glaucoma, when inflammation occurs in the entire body, in addition to the spine and limbs. Although the onset of ankylosing spondylitis cannot be prevented, it is known that, if treated as soon as possible, the stiffness of the spine and deformation of the skeleton after the onset can be alleviated. If symptoms suspected of occurrence persist for about 3 months, it is important to proceed with early diagnosis and treatment through an early visit to the hospital.
Ankylosing spondylitis treatment and management
1. Accurate diagnosis and treatment
For ankylosing spondylitis, various tests such as blood tests, X-ray tests, CT and MRI are performed, as well as the Shover test, which objectively measures the range of motion of the joint. And, based on the results of the diagnosis through various tests, drug therapy such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-rheumatic drugs, and TNF blockers, as well as exercise therapy to maintain the flexibility of the lower back joint and prevent deformation of the spine, are performed. The purpose of these treatments is to reduce joint stiffness, pain, and fatigue while at the same time helping to improve good posture and physical function. However, if the deformity of the spine or other joints is already severe, causing great discomfort and difficulty in life, surgical treatment may be considered.
2. Steady exercise
It is said that regular exercise is the most important management habit in alleviating the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. Through exercise, it is said that the joint can be kept soft and flexible, and the joint can be stabilized by strengthening the muscle strength. It is recommended to stretch as often as possible, and to do exercises such as swimming or bare-handed gymnastics at the same time to avoid straining the joints. It is also important to maintain posture and reduce stiffness through exercises that strengthen the back and neck. If you find it difficult to exercise because of stiffness, taking a warm shower to relax your joints and muscles is a good way to exercise. Also, correct posture is just as important as exercise, so it is recommended to make it a habit to maintain good posture.
3. No smoking
Smoking can aggravate the stiffness of the spine leading to the back and neck, and it is recommended to quit smoking because it can cause lung dysfunction due to chest expansion disorder caused by spinal stiffness.
In addition, walking or standing for a long time, including lifting heavy objects, and lying on a desk are also factors that affect the deterioration of spine refraction, so it is a good way to avoid it.