What is Ankylosing Spondylitis: Causes, Symptoms and 10 Common Questions

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If you’re asking the question, what is Ankylosing Spondylitis, then you’re in the right place.

And you’re not just hearing this from a random person, but (from someone diagnosed with AS).

So let me guess, you have just heard the words “Ankylosing Spondylitis” for the very first time, so you decided to google it to see what comes up.

Chances are that you heard these words from a doctor who is trying to help you understand your persistent symptoms and unexplained physical pain.

If that’s not the case, then I would guess that someone you love dearly has been diagnosed with it and you are wanting to better understand what that person is going through and how you can help them.

Whichever the case is, I honor your journey and your commitment to better understanding the situation.

In this blog post, I am going to share with you what it is from three different perspectives so that you can have a well-rounded understanding of what it is and how you can treat it, with or without the use of conventional medicine.

A Doctors Perspective on Ankylosing Spondylitis

A Doctor’s Perspective on Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)

In this section we will cover some of the treatments for ankylosing spondylitis.

From a doctor’s perspective, AS is an autoimmune inflammatory condition that causes inflammation in the spine and other major joints.

In some cases, AS can also cause inflammation in the organs or skin, leading to other conditions such as irritable bowel disease, psoriasis, cardiovascular disease, and more.

Causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Causes of Ankylosing Spondylitis

When it comes to diagnosing ankylosing spondylitis, as of right now, according to doctors, it is unclear what actually causes AS to begin with.

Research suggests that there may be a genetic component where the majority (90%) of people diagnosed with AS carry the genetic marker HLA-B27 (human leukocyte antigen B27).

HLA-B27 is a protein found on the surface of white blood cells in the immune system.

More on the Ankylosing Spondylitis Test

Although the exact role of HLA-B27 in the development of Ankylosing Spondylitis is not completely understood, it is believed that the gene may trigger an abnormal immune response that leads to inflammation in the joints.

For these reasons when a doctor suspects that a patient may be suffering from AS, there are several Ankylosing Spondylitis tests performed to confirm a diagnosis.

Some of those tests include x-rays, genetic testing, and in most cases, a CRP (C-Reactive Protein) test to measure inflammation levels in the body.

Even after all several blood work and radiology examinations are performed it still may take several years to get a final conclusive diagnosis from a doctor.

Thoughts on Ankylosing Spondylitis Medication

Depending on how severe a patient’s AS symptoms are, doctors may prescribe mild anti-inflammatory drugs, other forms of ankylosing spondylitis medication that doctors may prescribe for more aggressive treatment may include, to control the patient’s level of inflammation and reduce their level of pain.

In more severe cases where patients don’t respond to mild anti-inflammatory drugs, doctors may prescribe more aggressive treatment measures such as biologic immunosuppressants known as TNF inhibitors.

This treatment option works by weakening the patient’s immune system and slowing down the progression of the disease.

In extreme cases where a patient may be experience more advanced complications of Ankylosing Spondylitis such as fusing of the spine, doctors may suggest surgery to prevent the spine from fusing in ways that may severely impact the patient’s overall quality of life.

Other complications of AS may involve inflammation in other areas of the body such as the aorta, which can lead to potentially life-threatening complications.

Healing AS – What’s possible?

At the moment there is no cure for Ankylosing Spondylitis but there are many ways in which a patient can live a fully functional healthy life through the application of proper treatment and lifestyle modifications.

A Patient's Perspective on Ankylosing Spondylitis

A Patient’s Perspective on Ankylosing Spondylitis

Having AS is a real pain in the butt! Literally and metaphorically. The patient spends the entire night twisting and turning trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in. If they are lucky enough to get some rest, they wake up in the morning in severe pain and oftentimes feel as stiff as a wooden board.

The pain’s intensity level tends to fluctuate up and down, so you never know what the day is going to be like, but for the most part, you know that everything in your body is going to hurt.

To make matters even worse, many patients also experience mood swings, chronic fatigue, and mental fog that make it very difficult to focus and concentrate on simple daily tasks.

These tasks can range from something as simple as tying your shoes to making critical decisions at work, school, and other parts of your day.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Linked to Anxiety and Depression

The never-ending cycles of depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and social anxiety can have a severe negative impact on the patient’s confidence level and overall self-esteem.

To cope, many patients endlessly search the internet for ways to improve their symptoms using dietary adjustments and lifestyle modifications.

Many patients do very well following a low-starch diet, managing their stress, and engaging in daily physical exercises that are easy on the joints, which I cover a little bit more about in my ebook Straight to the Pain Point.

A few thoughts on Ankylosing Spondylitis Exercise 

For example, some exercise for ankylosing spondylitis that are generally safe to do would include, water aerobics, swimming, gentle yoga and gentle Pilates with the help of a trained professional.

It is often believed that an overgrowth of a healthy gut bacteria known as Klebsiella may be the trigger for many cases of AS.

This is known as “leaky gut” theory and it is a very popular idea in the AS community of people looking for alternative treatment methods without the use of conventional medicine.

From this theory stems many different diets with the intention of treating AS naturally. You may be wondering what the best diet for ankylosing spondylitis is, the answer really comes down to the individual and what they respond to the best.

Thanks to the internet there are also many people with AS who are also aware of the potential link between AS and childhood trauma. 64% of people with autoimmune diseases have at least one adverse childhood experience (childhood trauma).

For that reason, there are many people with AS who do very well by simply having greater awareness of their trauma, their triggers, and their usual stress response.

Many times, people who use this method of alternative healing for AS do very well working with a licensed mental health professional that can help guide them toward developing healthy stress management techniques.


Mind-Body Healer’s Perspective on Ankylosing Spondylitis

I’ll start this section by disclosing that I may be a bit biased about this perspective for a couple of reasons.

The first reason is that I was diagnosed with AS somewhere around the year 2009. Since then I have tried everything I can think of, in both the conventional and alternative medicine fields.

After trying so many different things the only route that has allowed me to live completely symptom-free since early in the year 2014 has been the mind-body healing approach.

It has allowed me to eat whatever I want, and not be a slave to any stress management routines whenever life gets challenging.

In the past ten years I have helped countless people around the world do exactly the same thing and live a healthier, happier, more fulfilling life. In this section, I will share with you what is Ankylosing spondylitis from a mind-body healer’s perspective.

In my humble opinion, AS is a severe anxiety disorder brought on by a prolonged period of low-grade depression.

The root of that low-grade depression can vary from one individual to another. Which can make it challenging for anyone to create a “cure” that would function effectively on a one size fits all basis.

For some people, depression is linked to childhood trauma which is present in more than 70% of adults diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis.

Whereas for other people their depression can be linked to unprocessed grief that settled in after an accident or the loss of a loved one.

How exactly depression becomes an autoimmune response is still something that is being researched, but for now, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Project provides statistical data that strongly supports the link between autoimmune diseases, chronic anxiety and depression, addictions, substance abuse, and other health-related challenges.

The Possibility of Remission from Ankylosing Spondylitis

Many AS patients experience partial or full remission from their symptoms by exploring and processing the roots of their emotional distress.

To conclude, what is the answer to the question: What is Ankylosing Spondylitis? It really all depends on who you ask and on what stage in their healing journey they are on.

Now that you have the answer to the question from three different angles of perspective, you get to decide what the final answer is to you.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post, sending you tons of love and positive vibes and I wish you much success in your search for healing.

Common Questions on Ankylosing Spondylitis

Common Questions About Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS):

My first symptoms of AS were severe buttocks and lower back pain that lasted for a few days. Later on the pain expanded onto other areas of the body like the sternum (middle of the chest bone), neck pain, and swollen right knee.

As of right now, there is no main cause that anyone can point to. It is theorized that genetics and environmental factors such as lifestyle, early life experiences, and trauma may significantly increase the likelihood of developing symptoms.

The four major parts of the body affected by AS are the Spine, shoulders, chest, and hips. This includes the lower back (lumbar spine), the sacroiliac joint (SI joint), and the Pelvis.

As symptoms can vary from patient to patient. For some, the symptoms are mild and have little impact on the patient. For others, the symptoms are severe and can lead to serious health complications.

Pain and stiffness in the lower back, reduced flexibility and mobility, and fatigue.

AS can affect anyone, however, it is more common in men than women on a ratio of 3:1. Oftentimes the first symptoms of AS show up during the late teenage years and early twenties.

There is no single virus or pathogen that causes it, however, many patients report developing AS after experiencing a viral or bacterial infection. Some would even argue that AS developed as a result of certain vaccines.

Psoriasis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), and Reactive Arthritis are all associated with AS.

A flare-up is defined as a sudden worsening of symptoms. During a flare-up a patient may experience more pain, stiffness, and fatigue than usual. Making it difficult to perform daily tasks.

Ankylosing Spondylitis symptoms are similar in women as they are in men

However, there is evidence that suggests that women may have milder symptoms than men and on many occasions may be underdiagnosed as a result of showing milder symptoms than men.

Treatment for women with ankylosing spondylitis is the same as in men, depending on the severity of the symptoms and the guidance of their doctor.

Need more help relieving pain from AS - download my ebook.

Learn about my personal experience with AS, and get straight to the pain point in my latest complimentary ebook.

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