Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects mainly the spine, pelvis, and ribs. It chiefly affects young males and eventually causes abnormal stiffening and immobility of the involved joints. It is an inflammatory disease that has no known specific cause yet although genetic factors have been shown to play a role. Treatment involves symptomatic relief of pain and stiffness, as well as prevention of complications and progression to spinal deformity.
A lot of people have been asking though, if you have ankylosing spondylitis, should you see a chiropractor? Is it okay to have a massage? Here we shed some light on these issues.
Although chiropractic care, specifically manipulation of the spine, may sometimes bring about relief from the back pain, rheumatologists do not recommend this treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. According to Dr. Muhammad Asim Khan, a rheumatologist: “Anyone with limited spinal mobility due to ankylosing spondylitis should avoid manipulation of their back or neck by chiropractors and masseurs because it can be dangerous.” He then explains that chiropractic treatments have sometimes inadvertently led to spinal fractures and neurological complications, especially in individuals with fusion due to spondylitis.
The Spondylitis Association of America holds that same idea. They specifically advise against back and neck manipulation by a chiropractor too. Again, according to them, because it can lead to a fracture or other injury, a risk that’s further elevated if you have ankylosing spondylitis or spinal fusion. “Chiropractic therapy is often useful for low back pain, but I would not suggest it for a person with ankylosing spondylitis,” says rheumatologist David Fox of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
So what to do then? The treatment is, again, symptomatic relief and includes taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. However, a chiropractor does not necessarily need to be completely not involved. He or she can instead show you exercises designed to strengthen your back, improve posture, increase flexibility, range of motion, and techniques to improve your breathing.
People with ankylosing spondylitis who are interested in chiropractic care can definitely still see a chiropractor. However, he or she should find a chiropractor who has experience specifically with managing cases of ankylosing spondylitis and in using more “gentle” techniques.