What is Ankylosing Spondylitis? Symptoms, Causes & Exercises

Arthritis Spinal Pain

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a rare kind of arthritis. It often targets the spine. It is that type of disease that takes many years to be diagnosed. This condition sometimes baffles physicians as well because it’s such a complicated form of arthritis. It causes pain and inflexibility in your spine. Fused bones are referred to by the term “Ankylosis.” Inflammation in your vertebrae and spinal bones refers to “Spondylitis.”

How ankylosing spondylitis disease begins? 

The disease of spondyloarthritis commonly begins in your lower back. As it progresses, this disease targets your neck as well. It can also harm other joints of your body. Ankylosing spondylitis primarily affects the joints of the spine. It also causes inflammation of the tendons and ligaments that provide support and flexibility to the vertebrae.

Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)

The symptoms of AS can be different from person to person. Its symptoms differ usually. Pain is the most common indicator of AS. But, the location of pain in the body may vary. Following are symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis:

  1. Pain
  2. Pain in the Peripheral joint
  3. Stiffness
  4. Sensitivity
  5. Issues related to eyes


Pain is the first symptom of ankylosing spondylitis. The pain is mainly found in the lower back, alternating buttocks, hips, and thighs. The neck becomes stiff, and this is very painful. Head movement becomes increasingly difficult due to stiffness. Neck pain occurs more frequently in women than men.

Also, read the best guide to avoiding back pain.

Pain in peripheral joint

This peripheral joint pain is also common in ankylosing spondylitis. Patients primarily develop inflammation of joints in the legs and arms. Knees, shoulders, ankles, and bottom of heels are the most affected areas of stiffness and pain.


When you wake up, you may feel stiffness in your affected joints. You can lessen this with movement or a warm shower.


Many people experience sensitivity issues or tenderness in the inflammatory area. For instance, you may feel discomfort or pain when you will press the skin over the spine.

Issues related to eyes

Almost 40% of ankylosing spondylitis patients have inflammation in the eye. This may refer to uveitis. It causes redness and discomfort in your eyes and makes them sensitive to light.

Other symptoms related to ankylosing spondylitis 

Ankylosing spondylitis disease affects the entire body. Along with pain, other symptoms associated with AS mention are fever, illness, unexplained fatigue, loss of weight and appetite, and swollen toes and fingers.

Causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis 

The cause of AS is unknown. Genes have been determined to play an essential role in this disease. If you have a history of AS in your family, then you are more likely to contract it. People who suffer from AS have a gene called HLA-B27. This gene is absent from people who don’t have AS.

Risk aspects associated with Ankylosing Spondylitis 

  • Men are at higher risk than women to develop AS.
  • AS mainly occurs in middle age or late adolescence.
  • You are more likely to develop AS disease if you have a family history of gene HLA-B27.

Exercise for Ankylosing Spondylitis

When you suffer from joint pain and stiffness, exercise may become dangerous for you, so always talk to a specialist in this regard. However, if you don’t exercise, you may suffer more pain and fatigue. The absence of movement will reduce joint motion as well as weaken the muscles. Exercise can help you manage symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. Still, it’s highly recommended to consult with a physical therapist before attempting any of the following activities:

Breathing exercises 

Although breathing exercises may not produce sweat, they are vital to maintaining your rib joints’ flexibility. This will help you to breathe easier.

Flexibility exercises

To improve flexibility in the spine, yoga, and tai chi are considered ideal exercises. Increasing flexibility will help with stiffness and provide relaxation. These exercises also help you to extend your vertebrae.

Strengthening exercises

Strong back muscles are crucial to fight AS disease. These muscles provide support to your posture. This enhances spinal health and support for your joints as well. All this can be possible when you perform strengthening exercises.

Cardiovascular exercises

Walking and cycling are considered low-impact cardiovascular exercises. These are good for joint health. Water aerobics and swimming are also suggested for AS exercises.

The points you should consider before starting your exercise: 

  • Consult with a doctor to know whether you can safely do exercises or not. The doctor may suggest specific safety precautions to avoid joint damage.
  • You should check with a physical therapist if you have any uncertainty about the proper way to perform each movement of an exercise.

How to avoid ankylosing spondylitis 

Following are the ways of avoiding AS disease:

  • Stop Consuming AlcoholAvoiding alcohol is the best way to prevent AS. Abstinence can help increase your bone density. Besides, consuming alcohol while taking medicines can cause further health issues.
  • Intake of Calcium and VitaminVitamin D and calcium are building blocks of bone. Taking both calcium and vitamin D can also help bone density.  Calcium helps your body build and maintain bones and is better absorbed by the body with vitamin D.
  • Get Adequate SleepPeople with ankylosing spondylitis always suffer from unexplained fatigue. Getting enough sleep (7-8 hours) will help your energy level. Sleep also helps to reduce inflammation.Finally, if you experience any joint pain, stiffness, or sensitivity, see your doctor. They can refer you for further tests and imaging to get a firm diagnosis and any needed treatment.


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