Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) and Me

Apparently, I developed this condition, Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), many years ago and didn’t know it. It would flare up every 5 or 6 years for a couple of months, then go dormant. The original diagnosis was either tendonitis or bursitis and presently mostly as major left shoulder pain, depending on which doctor I went to. In January 2017, it flared up again and didn’t go away. The pain got bad enough that I went to the E.R. on a week-end, something I avoid as E.R. visits on week-ends tend to be a bad mix.

They referred me to my general physician who eventually sent me to several months of Physical Therapy (P.T.) a couple of times a week. The P.T. guy (Jim) figured out in my first visit it wasn’t shoulder pain as he did stuff to my shoulder that would have me on the ground in tears if it had been shoulder related. Eventually, my doctor sent me to have an MRI and at that point, it was determined that AS was my diagnosis. The doctor wasn’t nice enough to share the specific diagnosis, other than mentioning neck arthritis and 3 pinched nerves (C3 – C7 area). I had to find out the diagnosis when my doctor referred me to a neurosurgeon as my doctor felt surgery was the only option. I had to get a copy of the MRI to take the neurosurgeon and it included a typed summary of the diagnosis which I read. The neurosurgeon left it to me on the surgery issue. I chose to decide against it and treat it as a last resort option. In the meantime, I joined a number of AS groups on Facebook and did as much research as I could on the subject. From the description, I suspect my earlier shoulder pain issues were AS that was presenting as shoulder pain, but originating in the neck area.

I am doing what I can to alleviate the pain without resorting to painkillers as my system develops a tolerance for medicine. They did give me a shot in the neck that made the pain bearable for around 6 months. My goal is to have them try it again since it can take several injections to make a long-term difference. My pain tends to be medium most days with some flare-ups to high and times where it’s barely noticeable. I recently started riding a bike as my car decided to act up and I don’t trust it to last much longer. The bike is helping some with the AS and I am getting used to riding again. I used to ride 15 miles each way to work back in the late 1980s and I am slowly working my way back up to 3 miles as that will give me access to a grocery store, convenience store,  and a few other stores in the area. It will also get me to my doctor who is about 2.5 miles from my house. For visits outside this area, I am hoping to get my endurance high enough that I can bike past the 3 mile limit in time.

If you know anybody who has AS, there are plenty of Facebook groups available and they range from traditional medicine approaches to natural approaches to a mix of the two. My goal is to find what works best for me in terms of treatment. It may be spiritual, surgery, natural, exercise, something else, or most likely a combination of the above. I am in the process of seeing about a referral to an expert in AS as I believe they are (hopefully) better trained in dealing with the condition and may have solutions or suggestions that I don’t know about.

 

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