Chiropractors can be the ones to detect and treat this painful condition.
The Spondylitis Association of America defines ankylosing spondylitis (AS) as “a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, although other joints can become involved.”1 This condition creates inflammation in the vertebrae that can lead to pain. If severe enough, new boney structures form, fusing portions of the spine and immobilizing it.
Often this results in a forward-leaning position, most commonly affecting the sacroiliac joints (the joints where the spine meets the pelvis).
Causes of ankylosing spondylitis
Mayo Clinic reports that the cause for AS is unknown, but heredity may be a factor.2 The HLA-B27 gene was first connected to AS in 1972 and has since been linked to other conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease and reactive or psoriatic arthritis.3 Men have a greater tendency to receive an AS diagnosis than women, and onset is most common for people aged 17 to 45.1
Ankylosing spondylitis treatment
Research published in The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association has found that chiropractors are often the first to identify ankylosing spondylitis in patients.2 This is largely because the primary symptom is back pain. Currently, no cure exists for ankylosing spondylitis, and the main goal for doctors is to lessen patients’ pain and stiffness.
Of course, the sooner a condition is identified, the sooner treatments can start, which can lead to better outcomes. This is true for almost any disease or condition, but is a particular concern with AS. Unfortunately, the current delay in diagnosing AS is on average seven to 10 years.4
In several cases, chiropractic treatment proved beneficial. One case study involved a 34-year-old man who had AS for 10 years. After 18 weeks of chiropractic care, he exhibited 85-percent improvement in function. Ultimately, he experienced increased spinal column flexibility and chest expansion.5
DCs must be aware of this rare condition to assist in early detection. Because chiropractic care for ankylosing spondylitis is a promising symptom-based treatment, connecting with doctors in other fields may be a way to reach those patients who may not be aware of these benefits.
1 Spondylitis Association of America. “Ankylosing spondylitis.” http://www.spondylitis.org/about/as.aspx. Published November 2004. Accessed June 2015.
2 Mayo Clinic. “Diseases and Conditions: Ankylosing Spondylitis.” http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ankylosing-spondylitis/basics/causes/con-20019766. Published February 2014. Accessed June 2015.
3 Di Lorenzo AL, et al. “HLA-B27 Syndromes.” http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1201027-overview Updated April 14, 2014. Accessed June 2015.
4 Shaikh S. Ankylosing spondylitis: recent breakthroughs in diagnosis and treatment. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2007;51(4): 249–260.
5 Rutherford S, et al. Symptomatic improvement in function and disease activity in a patient with ankylosing spondylitis utilizing a course of chiropractic therapy: a prospective case study. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2005;49(2): 81–91.