The following article is sponsored by AbbVie Australia
Your morning routine looks different these days. Wake up, go to the gym, get home. Shower, shave, brush teeth, style hair, get dressed. Eat breakfast and guzzle a revitalising Orange Mocha Frappuccino.
Except now you wake up with a stiffer back than you used to, and the coffee comes with an unexpected side order: painkillers.
You chalk up the morning aches to age. Maybe it’s all the hours you’ve been logging at your desk prepping for an important Tinder date. Maybe you went too hard at the gym. Maybe you shouldn’t have danced until 7am with your Tinder date.
You try a chiropractor and an acupuncturist, go to Pilates with your date and nearly let your hippie pal talk you into trying reiki. You’re finally ready to admit it: perhaps your chronic back pain is caused by something more than letting martinis convince you you’re the next Mikhail Baryshnikov.
As a red-blooded bloke you need to know something…you’re not invincible (anymore).
Research published in the Medical Journal of Australia confirms that lost productivity due to back pain and arthritis currently costs Australia more than $14 billion per year. That number will likely grow to $22 billion by 2030, unless more is done to prevent and manage these conditions.
Understanding Ankylosing Spondylitis
If you still wake up stiff and sore every morning, you may be experiencing inflammatory back pain (IBP), which could be caused by a form of arthritis called Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS)…and if you’re thinking arthritis is only a condition for the elderly, signs of AS typically begin to appear between the ages of 15 and 45.
Don’t be confused by the silly-sounding name. Ankylosing Spondylitis is a serious disease with real consequences (only one of which is winning spelling bees). It causes inflammation in the spine, and may also affect other organs in the body – including the eyes, the gut, and the joints of the hands and feet. Left undiagnosed and unmanaged, AS can lead to permanent stiffening of the spine and can even cause the vertebrae to painfully fuse.
The bad news is, AS can be hereditary and men are three times more likely to suffer from it than women. The good news is, unlike many other forms of back pain, AS actually improves with movement and exercise.
So the question is: is your back pain inflammatory back pain?
Common Symptoms Of AS
Though the exact symptoms vary from person to person, the pain generally begins in the spine or pelvis, and may spread to affect other areas like the neck, eyes, and shoulders. Swelling can occur in the ankles and knees, as well as small joints such as the toes and fingers.
It sounds like standard mechanical back pain stuff, but here’s where it differs from your buddy who had a hard landing skydiving and now can’t turn his head without wincing. AS is not caused by physical trauma to the spine – rather, it’s a chronic condition caused by inflammation in the vertebrae.
The symptoms are worse after long periods of inactivity (for example, in the early morning or after marathoning every episode of Game of Thrones), and are improved with exercise.
On average, AS patients needlessly suffer inadequately treated back pain for over 6 years before receiving a proper diagnosis. Discovering it early not only spares years of torment, but may even prevent long-term disability.
What To Do About It
We get it: no one likes a visit to the doctor, not even back when it ended with a lollipop. Fortunately, the folks behind Don’t Turn Your Back On It also get it. The Australian-based initiative is out to raise awareness about Ankylosing Spondylitis, and help even the most reluctant man take control of his health.
To determine whether your chronic back pain is being caused by AS, visit the Don’t Turn Your Back On It symptom screener. Complete the five-question survey, and if your results are positive, visit your GP for a referral to a rheumatologist.
With proper treatment, you’ll be back busting bar top moves and enjoying your morning joe before no time.
Do Something About It Now
You’ve had a pretty decent run so don’t turn your back on it any longer. Get checked now.