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Ankylosing Spondylitis

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Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a long-term condition in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed. It is one of a group of conditions known as Axial Spondyloarthritis, in which the main symptom is back pain.


AS tends to first become symptomatic in teenagers and young adults and is approximately twice as common in men than in women.


  • Back pain which is typically worse when immobile/static and improves with movement.
  • Stiffness (particularly on waking).
  • Pain and swelling in other parts of the body.
  • Extreme tiredness


The symptoms can fluctuate, but can develop over months or years. In some people the condition gets better with time, but for others it can get slowly worse.


It’s not known what causes the condition, but there is a strong link to a particular gene known as HLAB-27.

Assessment & Diagnosis

At Pure, your Physio will take a detailed history of your symptoms followed by a thorough clinical examination to establish a working diagnosis for appropriate investigations to be arranged. This may compromise of blood tests and imaging, which your Physio will liaise with the GP about. Undergoing the recommended tests will help diagnosis to that the most effective treatment and management plan can be implemented straight away, helping to achieve the best possible outcomes. Your Physiotherapist will want to know how your condition is effecting you day to day so that your treatment can be tailored to your needs and will mean personalised goals can be established. Regular re-assessment will ascertain if your are making progress towards your goals and will allow adjustments to your treatment to be made.


There’s no cure for AS however, treatment is available to relieve the symptoms and help prevent or delay its progression, as well as learning to self-manage. You Physiotherapist will provide education on the condition and help develop strategies to effectively manage your symptoms and implement adjustments where suitable. Mobility and regular movement is a key aspect in managing your symptoms and your Physio can suggest methods in which you can implement regular bouts of movement during your day. You may also be offered advice on suitable over-the-counter medication which could help further reduce symptoms and allow you to complete tasks with less discomfort. Finally, you may also be given information on using heat therapy to help further reduce pain and discomfort.


Physiotherapy for AS can consist of exercises to reduce pain and stiffness, as well as massage and mobilisation to improve comfort and spinal flexibility. Your Physiotherapist will design a bespoke exercise regime specifically for your physical ability, needs and goals that you set in collaboration with your clinician. With regular re-assessment, your Physiotherapist can make adjustments to your exercises so that you can continue to progress, developing strength and mobility. Our Physiotherapists will continue to provide ongoing support and advice so that you develop the skills and knowledge to effectively manage your symptoms.

Other Options

You should see your GP if you have persistent symptoms of AS. If your GP thinks you may have the condition, they should refer you to a specialist in conditions affecting muscles and joints (rheumatologist) for further tests and any necessary treatment. As previously mentioned, further tests may include blood tests and imaging tests.

Resources – further information regarding inflammatory back pain (axial spondyloarthritis) not exclusively AS.!diagnosisSub

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