Ankylosing Spondylitis

Signs Your Back Pain Is Actually Ankylosing Spondylitis

Signs Your Back Pain Is Actually Ankylosing Spondylitis

Has your back been giving you trouble for a long time? Chances are, that it isn’t your usual mechanical back pain, but a type of arthritis that causes swelling and inflammation of your vertebrae, i.e., the spine.1 Ankylosing spondylitis (AS). The name’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? This inflammatory disease largely affects people in their teens and 20s, particularly males.2 It is important to notice the nature of your back pain, because it might aggravate into something more serious in the future. We have curated a list of signs that are indicative of your back pain actually being AS.

You have chronic pain in the lower region of your back1,3

Place your hand on your lower back. Down, where your spine meets your pelvis. Right there; do you experience stiffness and pain in that location? If the answer is yes, ask yourself these follow-up questions:

  1. Does the pain come and go? Do you experience short periods of flares, which ease up over time but return eventually?
  2. Do you experience more pain early in the morning? Does it last for around half an hour before easing up as you continue with your routine?
  3. Does the pain wake you up at night?

If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, you need to consult a Rheumatologist for your pain, which has a high probability of being AS.

It pains and worsens when you’re not moving1,3

Here’s what’s happening in your body during AS — your immune system is attacking your joints. As a result, inflammatory cells and proteins accumulate in the fluid in your joints causing back pain. When your joints don’t move for a long time, those inflammatory chemicals settle and aggravate the pain. You may also experience neck, shoulder, hip or thigh pain, after being inactive for a period of time, for example, if you sit for long periods working at a desk.

Pain in your buttocks1,3

If your lower back pain is radiating further down in your buttock(s), there’s a high possibility you could be suffering from AS. “Alternating buttock pain” can make it hard to sit still, like during a long stretch of time at work at your desk, or during a movie. If you’re experiencing pain in one or both buttocks and sometimes the backs of the thighs, it’s time to visit your doctor and get yourself checked for AS.

Hot showers are your rescue1

If your back pain recedes after a nice, hot shower only to come back again, it could be AS. A hot shower or a heating pad often helps inflammatory back pain feel better. The hot water helps loosen up the inflammatory chemicals in your spine and other joints and temporarily relieves the symptoms. If you notice this pattern in your back pain, it’s advisable to visit your doctor.

You’re always running a low fever1

This should be a prominent red flag for AS. Normal back pain doesn’t come with regular fever. In AS, the inflammation of your joints is caused by your own overactive immune system. An overactive immune system can cause what doctors call “systemic” symptoms in addition to pain and swelling. A low-grade fever that lingers or comes and goes repeatedly can be a sign of ankylosing spondylitis.

In conclusion, don’t brush off your back pain just because it’s less severe or manageable by hot water and other home remedies. If you notice any of the above patterns with your back pain, it’s advisable to consult a doctor—or better yet, a rheumatologist—to get a proper diagnosis. Be aware and pay attention to your body!


  1. 12 ankylosing spondylitis symptoms you can’t afford to ignore. Check out. Accessed on 14 January 2020.
  2. Spondyloarthritis. Check out. Accessed on 14 January 2020.
  3. Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). Check out. Accessed on 14 January 2020.

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