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Back pain is one of the most common symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis

  • Chronic lower back pain, stiffness, and relief with movement are some of the characteristics of the disease

Dominican Republic, August 2018. Back pain could be a symptom of ankylosing spondylitis, a disease of the immune system that causes joint pain and inflammation between the vertebrae and sacroiliac joints (the region where the spine meets the pelvis). Occasionally, arms and legs may also be affected.

This results in low back pain for extended periods, which is relieved by physical activity and exacerbated by rest.

According to some studies on the disease developed in Spain, the average number of workdays lost for a worker with spondylitis ranges between 8 and 46 days per patient, which is a rate three times higher than that of the general population.

This is important because this disease mainly attacks patients between 17 and 35 years. And although back pain among the general population is a common condition, the variety of causes of this discomfort is wide. “The majority of the population relates back pain to muscle pain or injuries due to blows or falls.

In the face of discomfort, they seek treatment alternatives such as anti-inflammatories or massages, without addressing the underlying problem that is causing the pain.

If a patient experiences lower back pain (lower back) for a period greater than three months, which is relieved by physical activity and worsens with rest, including pain in the soles of the feet, it is necessary to go to the rheumatologist as it could be facing a disease like ankylosing spondylitis, ” explained the director of therapeutic area for immunology at Novartis in Central America and the Caribbean, Dr. Paolo Tassinari.

According to the specialist, this is a disease that affects the population of productive age and that usually associates and justifies the symptoms to the dynamics of their work. For example, people with extensive days at desks justify the pain from the posture in front of the computer.

Chauffeurs, for example, find that long hours of driving affect their backs. In none of the cases, they identify the disease as one related to the inadequate functioning of the immune system.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic disease in which the ligaments of the spine become inflamed and sometimes cause stiffness and loss of movement. The inflammation causes pain and stiffness that usually begins in the lower back and could progress to the upper part of the spine, chest, and neck. Most often, the first symptoms of the disease appear between the ages of 17 and 35. Only 5% of those affected have symptoms after age 45.

Symptoms and differences

The first challenge that patients face is to differentiate between muscle pain and one that is not. For this, specialists refer to specific symptoms: when the pain is due to disc injuries or osteoarthritis, there is a type of pain known as mechanical, that is, pain that worsens with movement and sometimes prevents movement; but that is relieved by rest.

On the contrary, in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, the pain is “inflammatory type,” that is, it is usually more intense at night and often wakes the patient at dawn, at 4 or 5 hours of lying down. When getting up in the morning, the stiffness of the back is important, and it takes, sometimes a few hours, to decrease. This morning stiffness improves with exercise and tends to drop throughout the day; It also usually stays for three months or more.

Early diagnosis is essential to obtain the maximum possible benefit from treatment and rehabilitation programs. Therefore, if you have these three symptoms, you should seek the attention of a rheumatologist.


To control the effects of ankylosing spondylitis, the patient must take care of their diet, have a good work and family environment, continue with clinical controls, consume their treatment, maintain a good mood and not smoke.

This condition does not have a cure. However, there are treatments to manage the symptoms. According to Dr. Tassinari: “In clinical practice, if patients come on time, the possibility of reducing or containing symptoms with adequate treatment is high, although it is true that there is no cure for the disease, patients may be controlled and maintain normal activity; This is especially important because we talk about very young patients who, if left unattended, could even develop a disability. ”

“For Novartis, the quality of life of patients is essential, so we investigate and develop innovative treatments that contribute to this end. Our goal goes beyond developing new therapeutic options to respond to unmet needs; It also includes that patients can have access to these medicines of high-quality innovators, at prices appropriate to the reality of the country, ”said Irene Arguedas, Director of Corporate Affairs at Novartis for Central America and the Caribbean.

About Novartis

Novartis provides innovative health solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Based in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to meet better these needs: innovative medicines, vision care, and generic pharmaceutical products that save costs.

Novartis is the only global company with leadership positions in these areas. In 2017, the Group achieved net sales of USD 49.1 billion, while R&D throughout the entire group amounted to approximately USD 9.0 billion. The Novartis Group companies employ about 124,000 full-time associates. Novartis products are available in more than 155 countries around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.novartis.com.

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