Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a relatively rare form of arthritis that causes inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joints. The condition is characterised as a progressive stiffening of a group of joints and ligaments in the spinal column, causing chronic pain and impaired mobility of the spine.
In general ankylosing spondylitis symptoms include pain and stiffness from the neck down to the lower back. The spine’s bones (vertebrae) fuse together, resulting in a rigid spine. These changes may be mild or severe, and may lead to a stooped-over posture.
The areas most commonly affected: The joint between the base of your spine and your pelvis (sacroiliac); the vertebrae in your lower back; the places where your tendons and ligaments attach to bones (entheses), mainly in your spine, but sometimes along the back of your heel; the cartilage between your breastbone and ribs; your hip and shoulder joints.
Symptoms: Many people with AS experience stiffness and pain in the lower back. This may be sporadic and range in severity. These symptoms can progress into the upper spine. Other symptoms vary from person to person which includes: Loss of flexibility, spinal fusion, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, red, watery eyes, eye pain, reduced lung capacity, difficulty breathing, general unwell feeling, stomach or bowel problems.Although AS is progressive, not everyone will experience spinal fusion or severe complications. The symptoms may be atypical in women. For example, symptoms may begin in the neck instead of the lower back.
Risk factors: Men are more likely to develop ankylosing spondylitis than are women. Onset generally occurs in late adolescence or early adulthood. Most people who have AS have the HLA-B27 gene. But many people who have this gene may never develop AS.Complications: In severe AS, new bone forms as part of the body’s attempt to heal. This new bone gradually bridges the gap between vertebrae and eventually fuses sections of vertebrae. Those parts of your spine become stiff and inflexible. Fusion can also stiffen your rib cage, restricting your lung capacity and function.
Though AS is said to be a lifelong condition, effective treatment is available. Treatment goals are to minimise pain and stiffness, and reduce flares. Acupuncture: It provides relief for patients with AS. It is a type of arthritis characterised by inflammation of the spine, joints, tendons, or ligaments. Long-term AS can lead to ankylosis, which is stiffening and often immobility caused by fusion of bones.
AS is categorised in Traditional Chinese Medicine in several domains: Lower back pain, kyphosis, spinal rigidity. Many patients experienced significant recuperation levels, with no pain or joint inflammation and restoration of normal joint functioning. Other patients had significant pain inflammation reductions. The primary acupoints were Huatuojiaji points applied to affected areas. Secondary acupuncture points were added to the following:
Dazhui GV14 (Hundred Taxations)
Ganshu BL18 (Liver Shu)
Dazhu BL11 (Great Shuttle)
Shenshu BL23 (Kidney Shu)
Acupuncture needles were inserted toward the direction of the spine for all Huatuojiajiacu points. Moxa was added to the needles, ignited, and supervised. The new research finds that acupuncture needles applied to the Governing Vessel (Du Meridian) combined with moxibustion therapy significantly reduce pain levels in AS patients.
The author is Head of the Department of
Acupuncture, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Delhi.
This treatment is now being made available in India.