Managing Your Ankylosing Spondylitis

What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Nearly half a million people are living with the chronic autoimmune disease known as ankylosing spondylitis (AS). AS is a form of arthritis primarily affecting the bones and joints that connect the lower spine and pelvis (sacroiliac joints). With AS, these joints become inflamed, commonly causing severe pain in the lower back. Symptoms can vary from person to person—some experience inflammation in other parts of the body, including the eyes.

Common symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis:

  • Morning stiffness
  • Decreased flexibility
  • Pain in the back, ribs, breast bone, and back of heel
  • Swelling of fingers and toes

During the onset of ankylosing spondylitis symptoms, many mistake their discomfort as mechanical back pain (eg, dislocation, pinched nerve, slipped disc, or muscle strain). However, the symptoms of AS are caused by inflammation inside the body. In order to find sustainable relief, you may need a treatment that specifically targets the immune system.

Signs of inflammatory back pain related to ankylosing spondylitis:

  • Usually begins before age 40
  • Back pain episodes that last longer than 3 months
  • Pain that goes away with exercise or activity
  • Pain while sleeping

It's important to know that ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive disease. If not properly managed, symptoms may worsen. Over time, it can lead to permanent damage to the spine and other physical complications, including inflammation in other joints in the body, which limits mobility.

Learn more about AS below to help add confidence to your plan for managing it.

Diagnosing Ankylosing Spondylitis


On average, it takes 5-8 years of living with the chronic pain of AS to receive an accurate diagnosis. However, the harm of a diagnostic delay goes beyond living with disruptive symptoms for nearly a decade; the longer it takes for a correct diagnosis and treatment plan, the more likely ankylosing spondylitis is to progress and cause permanent structural damage. For these reasons, it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms and address them with a specialist trained to diagnose and treat AS. A rheumatologist will be familiar with the condition and will know where to look to find the underlying cause of your symptoms.

See The Signs Through X-ray

Ankylosing spondylitis-related changes in the bones and joints can be seen through imaging tests. Your rheumatologist may use x-ray imaging to assess for structural damage.

Other steps of the diagnostic process may include, but are not limited to:

  • Evaluation of medical history, including family history
  • Physical exam to test range of motion
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), a blood test to check for inflammation
  • Certain blood tests for genetic markers, like HLA-B27

We know that there really is no cure, but that’s okay. As long as now I can say I have a name for it, and it’s not that I’m a busy mom of 4 who’s busy working, depressed, and lazy.

- Kristy, CIMZIA patientIndividual results may vary.

Feeling Limited By Your
Ankylosing Spondylitis?


If you are living with ankylosing spondylitis and feeling defined by your physical symptoms, you are not alone. Most people with AS experience a long path to their diagnosis of this condition, which may include years of feeling misunderstood while finding ways to work around the pain.

Talking to your rheumatologist can help you take control of your condition. Download our Doctor Discussion Guide to help you with your next conversation. Through open conversation with your doctor about how your ankylosing spondylitis symptoms are affecting you physically and emotionally, together you can decide the best treatment option for you.

Mentally, it's a very lonely disease.

- Kristy, CIMZIA patientIndividual results may vary.

How To Treat Ankylosing Spondylitis


Early treatment is key to managing ankylosing spondylitis. It’s important to talk to your rheumatologist to fully understand the complexities of ankylosing spondylitis once diagnosed.

By keeping track of your symptoms, writing down any questions you have, and being open with your rheumatologist about what you’re experiencing, you can find the treatment that’s most appropriate for you. To ensure a productive conversation at your next appointment, download our Doctor Discussion Guide.

My advice to people is yes, you deal with it alone in certain ways, but you’re truly not alone. There’s help out there. And don’t give up!

- Kristy, CIMZIA patientIndividual results may vary.

Resources for Support

CIMplicity® is a free program that provides support at each step of your experience when treating your ankylosing spondylitis with CIMZIA (certolizumab pegol). For more details, enroll now.*

Spondylitis Association of America strives to be a leader in the quest to cure AS and related diseases and to empower those affected to live life to the fullest. Call 1-818-892-1616 to learn more.

KickAS is a support forum with information for those suffering from AS, the associated spondyloarthropathies, rheumatoid arthritis, and related ailments.

The American College of Rheumatology works to advance rheumatology treatment through programs to improve care for people with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases and arthritis.

The Arthritis Foundation works to advance the treatment of more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions. Call 1-800-283-7800 for more information.

*The CIMplicity program is provided as a service of UCB and is intended to support the appropriate use of CIMZIA. The CIMplicity program may be amended or canceled at any time without notice. Some program and eligibility restrictions may apply.


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