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Anatomy of the Spine

The spine consists of a series of vertebrae extending from the neck to the lower back, separated by intervertebral discs. It is designed for both mobility and stability, protecting the spinal cord while supporting the body’s weight. Spondylitis causes the spine to become inflamed, leading to pain and stiffness, particularly in the lower back and hips.

Causes and Risk Factors

The exact cause of spondylitis is unknown, although several factors may contribute to its development. It is believed to be an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its tissues. A specific gene called HLA-B27 has been linked to spondylitis, although not all individuals with this gene develop the condition. Other risk factors for spondylitis include:

  • Age: Although spondylitis can affect people of any age, it most commonly develops in early adulthood.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop spondylitis than women.
  • Childhood infections: In some cases, respiratory infections during childhood may trigger spondylitis development later in life.
  • Smoking:  Smoking has been found to increase the risk of spondylitis.

Gut inflammation: Some evidence suggests that chronic inflammation in the digestive tract may contribute to spondylitis development.

Symptoms

Spondylitis is associated with a broad spectrum of symptoms, which may vary greatly among individuals. Common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Pain and stiffness
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Eye inflammation
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Anemia
  • Fever
  • Skin rashes

Diagnosing Spondylitis

Diagnosing spondylitis at Excel Health begins with a thorough medical history review and a detailed physical examination. Our specialists focus on assessing the range of motion in the spine and identifying any areas of tenderness or discomfort. This clinical evaluation is crucial in distinguishing spondylitis from other causes of back pain. To complement the physical examination, blood tests are often conducted to check for markers of inflammation and the presence of the HLA-B27 gene, which is commonly associated with spondylitis.

Additionally, imaging tests such as X-rays or MRI scans are utilized to detect changes in the joints and bones of the spine and pelvis, which are indicative of spondylitis. This comprehensive approach ensures an accurate diagnosis and forms the basis for an effective treatment plan tailored to each patient’s specific needs.

Treatment Options

Conservative Care

In most cases, spondylitis is managed through a combination of conservative treatment options that aim to reduce pain and improve function. These may include:

  • Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) can help alleviate symptoms.
  • Physical therapy: Exercises and stretches focused on improving flexibility and strength can help manage pain and stiffness.
  • Lifestyle changes: Maintaining good posture, quitting smoking, and following a healthy diet can all play a role in managing spondylitis symptoms.

Surgical Treatment

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, correct deformities, or replace damaged joints. Surgical options for spondylitis may include spinal fusion and joint replacement. Surgery is only recommended if other treatment options have not provided adequate relief. Excel Health specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery, which can offer a quicker recovery time and reduced risk of complications.