Spondylitis: Symptoms and Causes

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Spondylitis, a common cause of back and neck pain, is an inflammation of the vertebral joints. There are several types of spondylitis:

  • Cervical Spondylitis – affecting the neck
  • Lumbar Spondylitis – affecting the lower back and
Ankylosing Spondylitis

A less common Ankylosing Spondylitis, an autoimmune disease.

While spondylitis appears to be partially genetically influenced, the more common causes are pressures and strain impacting on the joint. These pressures may arise from either certain types of activities that place heavy loads on the neck or work environments that encourage awkward positions of the head that leads to an uneven distribution of the load through the cervical spine.

Pain and stiffness are one of the earliest presentations of spondylitis. Other symptoms include:

  • Chronic or episodic pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulder region
  • The pain tends to get worse over a period of time
  • There may be periods initially when the pain disappears completely; later as the disease advances the pain may remain persistent
  • Pain may radiate (travel) from neck to shoulders, arms, forearms, hands, the lower part of the head, upper back
  • Coughing, sneezing, other movements of the neck may worsen symptoms
  • Along with pain, there may be abnormal sensations (tingling numbness), loss of sensation, weakness in any of the above regions
  • There may be non-specific headaches in the lower part of the back of the head
  • The sensation of loss of balance
  • Loss of control over the bladder or bowels (if the spinal cord is compressed)
  • Occasionally there may be atypical pain presenting as chest pain or breast pain (false angina)