Diagnosis and Treatment
To diagnose ankylosing spondylitis, your doctor will do some physical tests to gauge the range of movement in your spine, hips, legs and chest. Other tests may include blood tests, X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
While there is no cure for the condition, it can be controlled with medication that reduces the symptoms but also controls the immune system. Physical therapy helps to maintain mobility and strengthen surrounding muscles. In most cases, surgery is not recommended unless certain joints, such as the hips or knees, are so damaged that they need to be replaced. The goal of treatment is to control the immune system, reduce inflammation and pain, and to delay the onset of complications and permanent damage to the joints. Commonly, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are prescribed for inflammation and pain relief. Other drugs may also be given to ‘block’ the proteins that drive the abnormal immune system reaction. It is important to comply with your treatment regimen and have close follow-up with your rheumatologist to minimise side effects and have the maximum benefit from the medications.
Some non-medical approaches to managing ankylosing spondylitis include physical therapy, which is aimed at improving strength and flexibility. You may also be advised to make lifestyle changes, such as doing more range-of-motion and stretching exercises, and maintaining good posture in the way you sit, walk and even sleep.