Many things, most commonly sudden strain or trauma to the spine, could cause lower back pain. However, back pain could also be a symptom of more serious issues, one being ankylosing spondylitis.

What Exactly Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Not like typical low back pain, ankylosing spondylitis (AS) isn’t due to physical spine trauma, but is actually a chronic condition due to inflammation of your vertebrae, which makes up the bones in your spine. But how do you know if it’s your average back pain or ankylosing spondylitis? Here are some indicators:

  • AS runs in your family: If you have a family member or relative diagnosed with AS, arthritis concerning IBS or inflammatory bowel syndrome, or psoriatic arthritis, you might have an increased risk of developing AS too.
  • You have unexplained and sudden back pain: Ordinary back pain usually gets better with rest. With AS, stiffness and pain are worse when you wake up. Although exercise worsens back pain, it may actually make back pain better. Additionally, it’s not common for younger individuals to experience sudden low back pain. With this in mind, young adults and teens that experience sudden pain or stiffness in their hips and/or lower back must consult a doctor for a diagnosis.
  • You are young, and are experiencing unexplained and sudden chest, joint, and heel pain: Some younger patients might also feel stiffness and pain in their ribs, particularly at the portion where they meet the spine, which in turn leads to chest pain.
  • You feel your pain coming and going, but moving up your spine slowly, and becoming worse: Ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive, chronic disease, says Dr. Olga Kromo, MD, a renowned practitioner of comprehensive rheumatology. She adds that inflammation and pain often spread from your lower back upwards to your spine. When left unaddressed, your vertebrae might fuse together, which in turn would cause your spine to curve forward, leaving you humpbacked.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs alleviate your symptoms. However, take note that these medications won’t change the progression of your AS.
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You might have AS if you experience recurrent lower back stiffness and pain. But AS could likewise impact your joints, intestines, and sometimes even your eyes. Those with more severe symptoms might also find that their vertebrae have fused together, leading to severely reduced quality of life due to reduced mobility. That said, if you experience any of these warnings signs, it’s best to visit your doctor to determine what’s really causing your lower back pain.