Study Suggests Pain in Ankylosing Spondylitis May Not Be Caused by Spine Inflammation

According to a story from Ankylosing Spondylitis News, treatment of chronic pain is always a difficult task for health care professionals. Patients with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) are especially prone to ineffective treatment. One of the problems pointed out in a recent study in the Journal of Rhuematology has to do with the lack of understanding of how AS causes pain to these patients.

This particular study’s aims were to closely look at the disease profile of patients who take opioids to control their AS. Researchers noted that opioids are not indicated for AS, but unfortunately the usual treatments prescribed to treat it are not often effective in controlling pain.

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an arthritic disease that attacks the patient’s spine. AS causes patients to experience pain and stiffness from the neck all the way down to the lower back. The disease progresses to the point that the vertebrae are fused together and the spine becomes rigid. The patient’s posture may become stooped-over, which may range in severity from mild to severe.

The 2-year study, with over 700 patients with AS enrolled, found that most patients were not taking opioids to control their AS, but of those who were on opioids, 22% were taking them occasionally and nearly 10% were taking opioids on a continual basis.

In general, the patient population on opioids were in poorer health. They had other medical conditions and and had been ill longer. They generally exercised less, were more likely to be smokers, and were also found to have a host of other medical issues.

The research found that, for the patients using opioids chronically, there was no improvement in objective measures that would support its role in helping patients manage their pain. The opioid-using patients, especially the ones using them continuously, reported more severe issues when spinal imaging was used.

Subjectively, patients (especially those taking opioids chronically) reported lower scores in self-reporting measurements looking at pain and flexibility. These patients also reported higher instances of depression and a higher use of anti-anxiety medications.

The results of the study show:

1) Spinal inflammation may not be the sole cause of AS pain.

2) Opioids are not responsible for the fact that most of these patients did not show a worsening of the disease through scientific tests.

3) If inflammation is not the sole cause of AS pain, then nerve damage and/or psychological factors might be in play.


Donald Blake

Donald Blake

Donald Blake has a BS in Communication Studies. He has a lengthy tenure in the healthcare, media and education fields. He is dedicated to improving the lives of those with rare diseases through his knowledge of healthcare and communications.

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