You are diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS).
Initial treatment: Self-management
You start learning ways to manage your symptoms, including:
- pain management techniques, including using heat and relaxation techniques
- a healthy diet to optimise your weight and reduce inflammation
- looking after your mental health by managing stress and seeking support from a psychologist or counsellor
- talking to your family and friends about how you’re feeling and how they can help
- stopping smoking, as smoking cigarettes is associated with more severe arthritis and may make medicines less
- advice from allied health professionals, such as a physiotherapist, to help with your self-management.
Initial treatment: Exercise
A daily exercise and stretching program has been shown to help combat joint and spinal stiffness. Get advice from a physiotherapist for a tailored exercise program for your needs. Regular physical activity will also improve your general health and wellbeing.
Initial treatment: Medicines
Your first-line medicines begin with oral non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (examples include naproxen, diclofenac, ibuprofen, meloxicam, celecoxib, and indomethacin). You may trial different NSAIDs, taken for several weeks each, to determine which is more effective for you. You can expect follow-up blood tests and frequent monitoring of spinal mobility and symptoms by your rheumatologist to assess the effectiveness and side effects of treatment.
For short-term use or flares, treatment may include:
- glucocorticoids (also known as corticosteroids) injections into joints in your arms or legs
- pain relief medicines.
Learn more about AS
You can learn more about AS through:
- Arthritis Australia
- talking to your healthcare team, which might include a rheumatologist, dermatologist, GP, physiotherapist, occupational therapist, rheumatology nurse, pharmacist, dietitian, podiatrist, or psychologist.
Visit your rheumatologist for follow-up every 3–6 months to:
- assess the status of your AS and the need to modify any of your medicines or other treatments
- perform additional blood and imaging tests, if required.