Maintenance of Spinal Mobility Improves Lung Function in Ankylosing Spondylitis
Patients with ankylosing spondylitis suffer from reduced lung function. A recent study emphasizes the importance of maintaining spinal mobility in the management of this disease.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease of joints that causes pain and stiffness in and around the spine. The spine is made up of individual bones called the vertebrae that are stacked over one another. Spondylitis refers to inflammation of the joints between two vertebrae; over time it leads to fusion of vertebrae, thus limiting movements of the spine like bending. Joints between the vertebrae and the pelvic joints are affected by ankylosing spondylitis. The disease can also affect other tissues of the body. A recent study evaluated the effect of ankylosing spondylitis on lung function.
A clear relationship was drawn between reduced spinal mobility and restrictive lung function in this study. Bony fusion, i.e. ankylosis leads to mechanical limitations. The ultimate result is reduced lung volumes. Reduced mobility of the spine and chest wall was found to have the strongest relation to reduced lung function. Other factors like measures of disease activity, physical function, smoking and cardio-respiratory fitness did not contribute much. Inflammation was also found to be of less importance with regard to respiratory function.
Physical therapy and exercise play key roles in the management of ankylosing spondylitis. They help to improve posture, spine mobility, and lung capacity. Progressive musculoskeletal limitation seen in ankylosing spondylitis leads to deteriorating lung function. The results of the recent research published in Arthritis Research and Therapy press for greater stress on interventions targeting the repair of musculoskeletal limitations due to the disease condition.
Maintenance of spinal stability may improve lung function in affected patients, wrote the authors. Patients with severely reduced spinal mobility may hence be referred for examination of lung function.
The study has also exposed the requirement for further examination of the relationships between the disease-specific changes and lung function in ankylosing spondylitis.
Reference: Restrictive pulmonary function is more prevalent in patients with ankylosing spondylitis than in matched population controls and is associated with impaired spinal mobility: a comparative study; Gunnhild et al; BMC Arthritis & Research 2012.