Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory back disease that can cause severe and chronic pain. The pain experts at Valley Medical and Wellness know how to diagnose ankylosing spondylitis pain and prescribe the most effective treatment for that pain.
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)?
Ankylosing spondylitis, also known as AS, is an inflammatory disease that can cause some of the vertebrae in the spine to fuse. When these bones fuse, the spine becomes less flexible, often resulting in a hunched posture. This can make it more difficult to breathe and result in chronic pain.
There is no cure for this disease, although treatment can alleviate the resulting pain, lessen symptoms, and, in some instances, slow the progression of the disease.
What Are the Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis?
Symptoms of AS typically begin in early adulthood, between the ages of 17 and 45. Early symptoms typically include back pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips, especially in the morning and after periods of inactivity. Some individuals also experience hip pain, neck pain, joint pain, and fatigue. These symptoms can sometimes improve or worsen at unpredictable intervals.
What Areas of the Body Are Affected?
Ankylosing spondylitis can affect the following areas of the body:
- The vertebrae in the lower back
- The joint between the base of the spine and the pelvis
- The places where tendons and ligaments attach to bones, mainly in the spine, but sometimes along the back of the heel
- The cartilage between the breastbone and the ribs
- The hip and shoulder joints
What Causes AS?
At present we do not know what causes ankylosing spondylitis, although genetic factors appear to be involved. In particular, people who have a gene called HLA-B27 are at an increased risk of developing AS, although not all people with this gene develop the condition.
How is AS Treated?
AK is typically treated by a combination of therapies, which can include:
- Exercise and regular physical activity to slow the progression of the disease
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen (Advil®) and naproxen (Aleve®), to reduce inflammation and resulting pain
- Disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), such as sulfasalazine, to reduce joint swelling and resulting pain
- Corticosteroid injections to temporarily ease joint inflammation and resulting pain
- Surgery to replace affected joints and correct curved spine
How to Deal with AS-Related Pain
If you are suffering from chronic pain related to ankylosing spondylitis, you may need to turn to pain relief medication. At Valley Medical and Wellness we can prescribe a variety of pain medications to reduce chronic pain. Depending on your individual condition, we may recommend some or all of the following:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ibuprofen (Advil®) and naproxen (Aleve®)
- Corticosteroid injections
- Buprenorphine (Suboxone®)
Treating AS Pain with Buprenorphine
Of these options, buprenorphine and similar opioids are most effective against significant, long-lasting pain. They work by attaching themselves to opioid receptors in the brain, blocking the body’s pain signals from being sent to the brain.
Considering all the available opioids, the pain experts at Valley Medical often recommend buprenorphine for chronic pain patients. Buprenorphine binds to the opioid receptors in the brain in a different way than other opioids, rendering it safe for long periods while reducing the risk of opioid tolerance. This makes buprenorphine highly effective in blocking the persistent effects of chronic pain resulting from ankylosing spondylitis.
Let the Pain Experts at Valley Medical Reduce Your AS-Related Pain
If you are seeking relief from chronic AS pain, Valley Medical’s friendly and experienced pain management experts will guide you on your road to a normal life without pain. Our pain management program is designed to help patients regain maximum function while minimizing dependence on opioids for pain relief. We consider each patient’s specific needs, customize the type and dosage of medication for each patient, and closely monitor each patient’s progress over time.
Make an appointment today at one of our five convenient clinic locations in Burnsville, Minneapolis, Woodbury, Rochester, and Bemidji. To learn more, call us at (612) 444-3000.