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Ankylosing Spondylitis


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Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that causes swelling, pain, and stiffness in the joints and ligaments along the spine. Over time, the spinal vertebrae (bones) can grow together, called fusion, and cause the spine to become inflexible.

The most common early symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis are:

  • Back pain at night or early in the morning
  • Morning stiffness
  • Pain and stiffness in the lower back, hips, and buttocks that develops slowly, over weeks or months. It gets worse during periods of rest, but improves when you're active.

As the disease progresses, it can affect joints throughout your body — including shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles — and even the bones in your rib cage, which can make it difficult to breathe. In some instances, the disease can cause swelling in your eyes or in your aorta (the largest artery in your body).

You don’t have to live with back pain. Rheumatologists at University of Miami Health System can develop a customized treatment plan to help you stay active and move with ease. With locations  throughout South Florida, you can get expert care nearby.


Lifestyle Guidance
Your care team will educate you about lifestyle changes to manage your condition better, such as regular exercise, good posture, and quitting smoking if you're a smoker. Our occupational therapists  can introduce you to devices to help make everyday activities more comfortable, such as long-handled shoe horns, sock aids, and reachers/grabbers.

Immunosuppressive Medicines
If possible, you should try to avoid the allergen that triggers your body’s immune system to react and causes the allergy symptoms

  • Corticosteroids: slow the body's immune response to relieve swelling and pain
  • Disease-modifying Antirheumatic Drugs (DMARDs): suppress the immune system broadly to prevent swelling
  • Genetically Engineered Biologics: a newer type of DMARD that targets specific immune functions

Some of the medicines can be taken orally, but others are given as an injection. Doctors may use ultrasound-guided injections to deliver pain medication, which allows us to locate the area that’s causing pain and guide the injection of medicine directly to the source.

Neurostimulation, also called electrical stimulation, uses a device that delivers mild electrical currents to block the nerve impulses that make you feel pain — it’s used in noninvasive and minimally invasive approaches:

  • Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS): uses electrodes placed on the surface of your skin to deliver electrical impulses.
  • Spinal Cord Stimulation (SCS): involves surgically implanting the device and electrodes under your skin.

Physical Therapy
Physical therapy strengthens the muscles and ligaments along your spine and improves your range of motion. Physical therapists teach you stretches and exercises, and use ultrasound therapy (sound waves), hot or cold therapy, and other approaches to improve joint movement and relieve pain.

Most people with ankylosing spondylitis don't need surgery, but joint replacement surgery can offer relief for severe pain and spine inflexibility. Our orthopedic surgeons use the most advanced, least-invasive techniques to restore joint movement and eliminate pain.


Imaging Tests
Your doctor may use X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to diagnose ankylosing spondylitis. It is only visible in more advanced stages of the disease.

Why Choose UHealth?

The latest treatments for ankylosing spondylitis. The same doctors who care for you are also leading arthritis researchers who are looking for better treatments. Your care team is on the leading edge of ankylosing spondylitis treatment.

Comprehensive care from a team of specialists. Our rheumatologists work with orthopedic specialists, physiatrists  (physical medicine and rehabilitation doctors), physical therapists, pain management specialists, and other health care professionals to develop a treatment plan that’s designed around your needs. You get personalized attention to help you move without pain.

A full spectrum of non-invasive and minimally invasive pain-management therapies. You can get the latest approaches to stop pain  — from acupuncture and biofeedback to ultrasound-guided injections, neurostimulation, radiofrequency ablation, and more. We draw from a full range of noninvasive and minimally invasive therapies to relieve back pain and stiffness.

Internationally recognized spine expertise in South Florida. University of Miami Health System is home to the renowned Spine Institute, which offers the most innovative approaches to diagnosing and treating back pain. Our rheumatologists work collaboratively with spine specialists, so you benefit from the combined experience of a highly skilled team of experts.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.