How to Know if It’s “Just Back Pain” or Ankylosing Spondylitis

An on the Bel Marra Health website (you can check it out here), talks about the difference between ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and “just back pain.”

(It also says that there may be a connection between having AS and not being breastfed, but as a mom who happily nursed her babies, I’m not ABOUT to lay any guilt on ANY mom who chooses not to.)

tamar braxton tamar aint nobody got time for that

So how do you know if that pain in your lower back is just that or is a symptom of AS?

Well, you might look at these three differences:

  1. Is your pain coming from a “mechanical” problem? In other words, did you suddenly wrench your back by turning weird or lifting something incorrectly? And does it feel better when you rest? If so, it’s less likely to be AS. AS is a form of inflammatory arthritis; it’s not an injury to your spine. The pain generally doesn’t happen suddenly, it doesn’t get better with rest, and it’s often worse in the morning. Also, AS involves the joints at the base of the spine, where the spine joins the pelvis—they’re called the sacroiliac (SI) joints.
  2. Are you are under 35 with lower back or hip pain that has been sneaking up on you for a while? AS usually rears its ugly head when people are in their late teens (as if you don’t have enough to deal with just being a teenager!). And although AS tends to occur in guys more than women, both genders can be susceptible—at any age.
  3. Does anyone else in your extended family have AS? According to the Spondylitis Association of America website, genetics play a key role in AS:

“Most individuals who have AS also have a gene that produces a “genetic marker”—In this case, a protein—called HLA-B27.”

Over 95% of people in the Caucasian population with AS have the marker—in other ethnic and racial groups, it varies. But just because you have the marker doesn’t mean you’ll contract AS. The majority of people who have it never do.

Currently, there’s no cure for AS, but there are treatments available that may help manage the symptoms. The important thing is to not ignore the fact that you have AS—work with your healthcare team to stay on top of things so your disease doesn’t progress.

What were your first AS symptoms? Share them with the community here at Patient Worthy and help increase EVERYONE’S knowledge.



EmpatheticBadass is a young-at-heart writer from Ohio (Go, Bobcats & The Marching 110!)) who is passionate about being a voice for the patient perspective.

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