What is Spondylitis?

Updated on June 15, 2021
Senior male tennis player with back pain on court

Spondylitis, or ankylosing spondylitis, is an inflammatory condition in which the plates in the spine get fused, leading to back pain. The fusion results in less flexibility to the spine, and the affected individual will tend to bend forward to walk comfortably. This leads to a hunched-back posture.

In simple terms, Ankylosing spondylitis is arthritis in the spine. However, it’s known to be more prevalent in men than in women, and the signs start showing up as they go into early adulthood.

Spondylitis can sometimes affect the ribs as well, and this usually leads to difficulty in breathing.

Cure for Spondylitis

Unfortunately, ankylosing spondylitis is an incurable lifelong condition, and the affected individual will have to manage the pain using medication. If this is you or you have a loved one suffering from spondylitis, it’s helpful to get help from a pain management dr near you. They can offer you lifelong support in suppressing the pain so life can become much more bearable again.

Signs and Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Spondylitis most often starts where the spine connects with the pelvis (the lower back). You’d likely begin to feel stiffness in this area, especially after long periods of sitting, standing, or lying.

You may also feel pain in the:

·         Neck

·         Rib cage

·         Buttocks

·         Shoulders

·         Thighs.

Some other signs and symptoms include:

·         Fatigue

·         Swollen joins

·         Trouble breathing (when it affects the ribs)

·         And a curved spine

Interestingly, you’ll sometimes experience some pain-free days at intervals. And other times, the symptoms worsen or improve a bit.


There’s no known cause of ankylosing spondylitis, although genetics seem to play a significant role. So it’s likely to pass down along family lines. Specifically, research shows that persons having gene HLA-B27 are at a higher risk of suffering spondylitis. Nevertheless, only a few people with this gene will eventually develop it.


There are known severe cases of ankylosing spondylitis in which new bones develop in those inflamed parts of the spine. The new development is somewhat of the natural body’s response to the condition. However, the bones bridge the gap between the vertebrae, causing even more stiffness.

Severe Cases of Spondylitis can also affect other body parts, including:

  • Eyes. Uveitis, an eye inflammation, is one of the most notable complications of spondylitis, occurring in about 40% of patients. It causes increased photosensitivity, blurred vision, and eye pain. If you start feeling these symptoms, do speak to your doctor immediately.
  • Spine. In some cases, ankylosing spondylitis makes the spine so weak that fractures become possible. This increases the degree of the hunch. But even more severely, broken vertebrae can impact pressure and injure the spinal cord, leading to diminished reflexes and some other controlled functions.
  • Heart. More rarely, ankylosing spondylitis can also cause enlargement to the heart valve, allowing blood to leak back into the heart. This negativity impacts how the heart pumps blood and can lead to intense tiredness and gasping for breath.

Talk to Your Doctor

Although this condition cannot be cured, a pain management doctor can help you manage the pain through medications and lifestyle changes so you can still live life to its fullest.

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