This information is for anyone with axial spondyloarthritis (axial SpA) including people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS)
Axial SpA (AS) medications are used to improve your symptoms
Depending on the severity of your axial SpA (AS) your doctor may need to give you a combination of medications to help you with the pain, stiffness and inflammation.
If you are having a flare you may want to talk to your GP or rheumatologist about altering your medication.
Medicines used to treat axial SpA (AS) include
Analgesics (painkillers). These reduce pain and are often used together with other medications.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These medications reduce inflammation as well as pain. Again, they are often used alongside other medications.
Corticosteroids (steroids). These drugs are very effective in controlling inflammation but can cause side effects in the longer term. They can be used in the form of local injections into joints or in tablet form. While they can be useful for pain and inflammation in peripheral joints like your knees, ankles and feet, they are not used for back pain.
Disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These can reduce pain, stiffness and swelling in people who have symptoms in peripheral areas such as the hips, knees, ankles or wrists. There is no evidence DMARDs will help with pain in the spine (axial disease).
Nerve pain medication. These medications specifically help people who suffer from long term nerve pain. This type of pain is caused by some damage to or pressure on nerves. Nerve pain is often described by people as being like ‘shooting pains’, ‘electric shocks’, ‘tingling’ or ‘the sensation of crawling under the skin’. Amitriptyline is the most commonly used medication in this group.
Biologic therapy. There are two types of biologic therapy (anti IL 17A and anti TNF therapy) which have been licensed to treat axial SpA (AS) and are approved by NICE. Both work by reducing the inflammation produced by the body. New types of biologic therapy are in development and going through clinical trials.