Orthopedic Health

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Written by
Dr. Saswati Nanda
and medically reviewed by iCliniq medical review team.

Published on Aug 24, 2016 and last reviewed on Sep 07, 2018   -  3 min read

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disorder of the spine characterized by pain and stiffness with a variable course. It mainly affects the joints of the spine and sacroiliac joint in the pelvis. As the severity increases, the joints start to fuse with each other resulting in a rigid spine.


It is thought to be genetic. The disease is more common with HLA-B27 in their first relatives such as father or mother. HLA-B27 is also present in individuals without ankylosing spondylitis development. Therefore, it is thought that there must be some other associated triggering factor responsible for the disease.

It is often associated with genitourinary or with gastrointestinal infection.


Antigen-antibody reaction triggers the inflammatory process. Inflammation is present at bone-ligament and bone-tendon junctions. There also occurs synovitis of synovial joints of the body, such as sacroiliac joint, hip joint, facet joint, etc. Joint becomes swollen and the movements of joints are limited. Destruction of articular cartilage occurs over time, followed by the subchondral bone formation.

The costovertebral joints are frequently involved with limitation of chest expansion. Inflammation of bone-ligament junctions affect the sacroiliac ligaments, intervertebral joints, symphysis pubis and manubrium sterni. The inflammatory reaction is characterized by cellular infiltration, granulation tissue formation and erosion of the adjacent bones. Granulation tissue is replaced by fibrous tissue, which gets ossified over time leading to ankylosis of the joint.

Ossification of the longitudinal ligament results in syndesmophytes. Syndesmophytes between two adjacent vertebral body bridges limit the movement and as a result the spine becomes stiff like bamboo. And so we call it as bamboo spine.

Clinical Features:

  • Insidious onset of intermittent low back pain and morning stiffness. In the starting, there will not be any pain at rest. The pain will be present only with movements and activities. Pain radiates down the buttock. Gradually, when the disease progresses, one may experience continuous pain at rest or on movement and the stiffness will get increased.
  • Involvement of the synovial joints is characterized by swelling, pain and limitation of movements. Inflammation of bone-ligament or bone-tendon joint (enthesopathy) is characterized by localized pain, tenderness and swelling.
  • It usually involves the insertion of tendon Achilles at the ankle joint. In about 10% of cases the disease starts from the peripheral joints usually hip joint.
  • Asymmetrical polyarthritis may develop. As the disease progress it involves lumbar spine, the lordosis (concavity of lumbar spine) gets obliterated and then kyphosis (convexity of spine) may develop.
  • It may be associated with head forward posture and hip joint flexion deformity. The joint movement limitations further may give rise to disability.
  • Chest expansion will be limited with the involvement of costovertebral joints.
  • Peripheral joints such as shoulder, hip and knee may be involved with effusion, loss of mobility and movements. Pain and tenderness also present.
  • Progressive spinal deformity gives rise to typical kyphotic posture and subluxation of atlanto-occipital or atlanto-axial joint.

Extra Musculoskeletal Manifestations:

  1. It includes ocular inflammation in above one-third of the patients.
  2. Carditis.
  3. Aortic valve disease.
  4. Pulmonary fibrosis.


  1. X-ray - The cardinal sign in the early stage is the erosion of the sacroiliac joint and later periarticular sclerosis develops usually on the iliac side of the joint. Sclerosis will be present in the x-ray.
  2. ESR - Erythrocyte sedimentation rate increases during active stage.
  3. Presence of HLA-B27 in 90% of cases.


  • In the absence of specific cause, the disease is managed by anti-inflammatory and analgesics. Physiotherapy is very much important in maintaining joint range of motion, prevention of deformity and prevention of muscle wasting.
  • Radiotherapy can also be done to improve the patient's well being and functional activities.
  • There is a variable mode of onset and course of the disease. The patient must be educated properly regarding the onset, course of the disease and prognosis.

Stay healthy and fit with regular exercise and say goodbye to drugs.

To know more about ankylosing spondylitis, consult an ankylosing spondylitis specialist online -->https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/pain-medicine-physician/ankylosing-spondylitis

Last reviewed at:
07 Sep 2018  -  3 min read




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