The type of long-term arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis (AS) results in severe widespread pain for more than half of people affected by this condition. This estimate follows research conducted by Italian scientists from Milan-based L. Sacco University Hospital. They presented their findings during the recent annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, Arthritis Research UK reported.
AS affects parts of the spine, manifesting itself through inflammation of the spinal joints, ligaments and the sacroiliac joints. As a result of this inflammation, people with AS experience pain and stiffness in the neck and back. Sacroiliitis, which is inflammation of the joints at the base of the spine, causes pain in the lower back and buttocks. In the worst cases, it leads to new bone formation on the spine, fusing it in a fixed, immobile position.
The Italian research team conducted their study with 547 patients. The subjects had been suffering from AS for a mean 16.2 years, while treatment had been running for a mean 16.19 years. It was established that 53.4% of the study participants experienced widespread chronic pain. The researchers could not determine with certainty whether the pain was caused by the condition itself or was attributable to secondary pain syndromes, for example those linked with spinal disease.
Dr Fabiola Atzeni, the author of the study report, told Pain Medicine News that the team was hoping the research would provide the starting point for determining the pain source. Ultimately, it could help provide an alternative definition of AS-related chronic widespread pain and thus bring clarity to the issue, Atzeni said.