Your healthcare team

GP

Your GP is always your first port of call. If inflammatory back pain is suspected, your GP should refer you to a rheumatologist. If you are having problems with your AS between appointments with your rheumatologist do go back to your GP.

Rheumatologist

A rheumatologist specialises in conditions affecting joints and bones. They will confirm if you have inflammatory back pain, decide what initial treatment you should receive and oversee the long-term management of your condition.

At your first visit they are likely to take an in-depth history of the problems you have been having, give you a physical examination to assess your flexibility and joint tenderness and may request blood tests, X-rays or scans. 

It is important for you to remain under the care of your rheumatologist in the long term. This ensures that you have ready access to expert reassessment.

Radiographer

A radiographer is responsible for carrying out imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI) and X-rays. These tests help to identify inflammation in the joints and damage to the bone itself.

They are unlikely to be able to make a comment on the results of the tests. You will have to wait to speak with your GP and rheumatologist about the results and what they mean for you.

Physiotherapist

A physiotherapist assesses physical movement, and helps you improve your functioning and reduce physical pain. Read more about the vital role physiotherapy plays in managing your AS.

Your rheumatology department should have a specialist rheumatology physiotherapist. If your rheumatologist does not suggest an appointment with the physiotherapist then do ask for an appointment.

Specialist rheumatology nurse

These nurses are specially trained to look after the physical, emotional and social needs of people with conditions such as AS. Some are trained to carry out activities usually done by doctors e.g. examining joints, performing joint injections, reviewing and asking for investigations, and changing treatments if needed. They will work closely with your rheumatologist.

Occupational therapist

An occupational therapist can provide information and support to help people with AS adapt their lifestyle to minimise the impact that AS may have on their ability to do every day activities and work.

If you think you would benefit from seeing an occupational therapist it's worth mentioning at your appointment with your rheumatologist.

Orthopaedic surgeon

An orthopaedic surgeon is responsible for performing any joint-related operations that are needed.

Ophthalmologist

An ophthalmologist is responsible for examining, diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries of the eye. You may be referred to an ophthalmologist if your AS is causing you to have problems with your eyes, such as uveitis / iritis. 

Gastroenterologist

A gastroenterologist specialises in diagnosing and treating conditions related to the gastrointestinal tract. You may be referred to a gastroenterologist if your AS is causing you to have bowel problems.

Last reviewed: February 2014