The inflammation of the vertebral joints which means in simple terms inflammation in the backbone or spine which leads to pain in the back and neck is the condition known as Spondylitis. The pain maybe in one vertebral joint or more and gradually to the entire vertebral column starting from the back of the neck, shoulder and spreading to the lower back. The condition is not detected unless it is fully developed and is causing pain. The pain is usually centered on or around the cervical region of the neck to the shoulders and results in stinging pain in the lower back. It is not fatal but causes lot of pain and discomfort.
Generally the causes of all types of Spondylitis are more or less common, only the severity depends on its progression and which part of the vertebral or spinal column is affected and since this condition is closely connected with Arthritis, the foremost cause of Spondylitis is inflammation of the joints, in this case- the vertebral joints. Age factor is also a cause but it affects men more than women and particularly in the age group of 16 to 30.
The second most important cause is genes and heredity. The majority of people having Ankylosing Spondylitis have a gene called HLA-B27.
Spondylitis differs from case to case and the instance or the location which is affected and on the basis of where it occurs can be classified into 3 types:
- Cervical Spondylitis: This affects the cervical spine [the surrounding area] at the top of spinal column, thereby causing a pain that slowly spreads to the back of the neck.
- Lumbar Spondylitis: This type of Spondylitis causes pain in the lumbar region which is the most strong and flexible part of the backbone and which is subject to lots of wear and tear.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis: This type of Spondylitis is mainly a disease which affects the joints and causes stiffness in the neck, jaw, shoulders, hips and knees.
The symptoms of cervical Spondylitis may include:
- Pain and stiffness in the neck which may be periodic or continuous.
- Pain may travel from the neck to the shoulders, arms, forearms, lower part of the head and upper back.
- There may be a tingling numbness in the above regions.
- Coughing and sneezing may worsen the pain in the neck.
- There may be headache in the lower part of the back of the head.
- There may be a sensation of loss of balance.
- Loss of control over bladder or bowel movements.
- Feeling of pain in the chest or breast presenting a feeling of false angina [heart] pain.
The symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis include:
- Frequent Pain and stiffness in the back, spinal column and the buttocks.
- The pain may be on one side in the beginning but may spread evenly later.
- Usually more pain and stiffness is felt in the morning and reduces with use of hot water and light exercise.
- Mild fever, no appetite and overall discomfort accompany this condition in the initial stages.
And gradually the pain and stiffness spreads to thighs as well as heels and in most of the cases one may feel eye irritation and irregular bowels.
A Rheumatologist is the expert who conducts physical examinations for Spondylitis. A physical examination may include: X-rays, medical History of the patient, and blood test for detecting the presence of HLA B27 gene which is also responsible for this condition.
Other points to be considered are:
If the age above 35 years, whether the persistent pain is for more than 3 months [chronic], pain and stiffness with affected mobility especially in the morning and night. Other factors like eye infection, gastrointestinal infections, fatigue and tiredness due to inflammation. To sum up, there are a multitude of tests and examinations and no one single test to conclude.
Spondylitis is curable to a certain extent. The drugs and medication prescribed for this condition help in providing relief in the discomfort caused due to pain, stiffness and immobility. Exercise is the most important therapy to reduce the symptoms of all types of Spondylitis especially cervical. Mild exercises like cycling, swimming, yoga, occupational therapy and physiotherapy help a person with Spondylitis overcome the discomfort to an extent. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are effective along with other latest type of drugs like disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs plus biologics which are recent discoveries and FDA approved which help relieve the symptoms. Surgery is an option when the pain has reached the knee joints.
Certain lifestyle changes help in keeping diseases and conditions at bay and delay the wear and tear of vital parts of the body. Everyday activity should necessary include: Correct posture, healthy food full of fruits, vegetables and milk, swimming, cycling, walking and yoga.
Daily intake of garlic on an empty stomach, and applying oil in which a few garlic pods have been burnt and massaging the affected part with it will bring some relief.
Avoid eating curds and drinking coffee, tea and alcohol.
Let us consider the true example of Leonard Trask [1805-1861]. Leonard Trask was a citizen of America and who suffered ‘contortion or discomfort’ in his early twenties due to a horse riding accident and more accidents later on. Leonard Trask’s ‘condition’ was a matter of curiosity and had become famous as an unusual case. His spine was rigid and head bowed down to his chest due to injury and disease.
Leonard Trask published his story and became more famous. His condition was still a mystery on his death but after his death it was diagnosed as Ankylosing Spondylitis. LeonardTrask suffered from severe deformity and discomfort and pain but he had to support his family and he did it by publishing the account of his life and his condition. And his was the first documented case of Ankylosing Spondylitis in the United States of America.