What is it?

Ankylosing Spondylitis (or AS) is a disease that causes inflammation and pain to the spine. It affects 1-2% of Australians of the population. The first symptoms usually appear between the ages of 15-40 years; and are 2 to 3 times more common in men. The diagnosis is made by a Specialist Rheumatologist with a thorough examination, blood tests results and Ct-scan, MRI or X-Rays of the spine and pelvis. Symptoms include chronic low back pain of insidious onset, joint stiffness in the morning, pain aggravated by rest and improved with activity, and pain in the second half of the night.


Ankylosing Spondylitis can effectively be managed: the best approach is a team approach, involving the person affected and his or her team of health care professionals, his family, and his or her support network. With the right treatment and advice, quality of life and general well being can be improved greatly for a person affected with AS.

Pharmacological treatment is orchestrated by the GP and Rheumatologists, prescribing appropriate medication and care which will greatly help with pain relief and decrease the progression of the disease. Non pharmacological treatment such as physiotherapy and exercise is of most importance in the management of this chronic condition.

How we can help:

  • Soon after the diagnosis, a visit to your physiotherapist will be recommended. The treatment will aim at:
  • Assess and monitor posture and spine mobility, chest mobility and hip flexibility. These measures will serve as a baseline to design a tailored exercise program.
  • Discuss and address questions about the condition and its progression, specific  needs and lifestyle.
  • Advise on posture, lifting techniques, sleeping positions. Posture is of major importance as the spine gets stiffer. Work positions (like sitting at a computer) should be assessed and frequent short breaks from sitting to stretch your back should be instigated.
  • Stretches and strengthening exercises for legs, arms, neck and back muscles.
  • Hydrotherapy exercises.In water, joints are less exposed to gravity. This provides an ideal environment to improve strength and flexibility, and relieve pain.
  • Assess and advise on cardio-vascular fitness. Some activities will be better tolerated than others: bicycling, basketball, volleyball, swimming are good options, while contact sports may have more incidences of injuries to the joints.
  • Manual therapy will keep your spine mobile, and decrease pain. Deep tissue massage is also helpful to decrease any muscle tension and facilitate movement.

In brief:

Physiotherapists have a great expertise in helping in the management of Ankylosing Spondylitis. At Penrith Physiotherapy Sports Centre, we can tailor a specific exercise program and address specific needs for each individual, enabling them to reach a better quality of life.