Bamboo spine – Few interesting facts
Domlur, Bengaluru Feb 9, 2017
Ankylosing spondylitis also commonly referred to as Bamboo spine affects a large group of individuals, though this condition is rather commonplace there are still quite a few misconceptions as well as lesser known facts about it. In this article I intend to highlight a few interesting facts about Bamboo spine, I’ve enlisted the important ones below.
- Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a type of progressive arthritis that leads to chronic inflammation of the spine and sacroiliac joints. It can also affect other joints and organs in the body, such as the eyes, lungs, kidneys, shoulders, knees, hips, heart, and ankles. However, AS primarily affects the axial skeleton, including the ligaments and joints
- This disease causes stiffness, aching, and pain around the spine and pelvis. The disease can eventually lead to a total fusion of the spine. This occurs when the vertebrae (spinal bones) actually grow together fusing the spine due to calcification of the ligaments and discs between each vertebra. If the vertebrae fuse together, the spine is robbed of mobility, leaving the vertebrae brittle and vulnerable to fractures.
- You may also see AS referred to as a seronegative spondyloarthropathy. What this means is that you may have all the symptoms of AS, but you do not have the positive blood test that usually goes along with this type of arthritis. The test that is negative is called the rheumatoid factor. This is simply a way for doctors to classify AS in relation to other forms of arthritis that affect the entire body.
- An easy way to understand what AS does to the body is to look at the words ankylosing and spondylitis. Ankylosing means stiffening; it comes from the Greek word “angkylos”, which means bent. Spondylitis means inflammation of the spine; it comes from the Greek word “spondylos”, meaning spinal vertebrae. In essence, the disease causes your spine to stiffen because of inflammation of the joints. This can cause the vertebrae to fuse together. It may also cause a kyphosis of the spine, which gives your spine a forward curve.
- AS affects primarily younger adult males. In fact, this disease is about nine times more common in males than females. This disease is also around three times more common in Caucasians than African Americans. Although AS can strike people of any age, race, or sex, the onset is most common in men between the ages of 17 and 35. In women, the symptoms of AS often first appear during pregnancy.
- Another unique feature of AS is that it appears to be genetic. A specific gene, called the HLA-B27 gene, is present in many people who have the disease. Eighty to ninety-five percent of people who have AS also have the HLA-B27 gene. This does not mean that if you have the gene you will automatically get AS. In fact, even though around eight percent of Americans have this gene, only about one percent actually has ankylosing spondylitis
- Physical therapy is an important part of treating AS. Movement will help return mobility to the spine and may improve your posture. A well-designed exercise program can also provide pain relief in most AS patients. A physical therapist will develop an appropriate exercise routine for your case. It is essential that you stick to the plan.
- Surgical intervention is uncommon with AS. It is only necessary if the disease has led to severe deformity, such as extreme kyphosis that prevents standing and looking forward. In this case, a spinal osteotomy might be considered. This operation involves cutting through the spinal bones and realigning them into a position that allows the patient to stand and look forward. The spinal cord is not cut, only the vertebrae.