What’s Wrong With My Back?

If you’ve been dealing with lower back pain and stiffness that just won’t go away, you could have axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA).


Odds are you’ve never heard of axial spondyloarthritis — and you’re in good company. Many people have never heard of the condition. But it’s more common than you think: Nearly one in 100 Americans has axial spondyloarthritis.

Persistent back pain and stiffness are hallmark symptoms of axial spondyloarthritis (or axSpA for short).

Other symptoms may include pain and stiffness in the neck, shoulders, ribs, hips, knees, and heels. Psoriasis (a scaly skin rash), iritis (eye inflammation), intestinal pain, and dactylitis (a swollen finger or toe) can also occur in some.

AxSpA is broken down into two types: non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (Nr-axSpA) and ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

Nr-axSpA and AS can be thought of as two ends of the spectrum of axial spondyloarthritis, and present with many of the same symptoms. The difference is that in nr-axSpA there are no visible spinal joint changes seen on X-ray, while in AS spinal joint changes are visible on X-ray.

AxSpA can be difficult to diagnose, and take much longer than it should. In fact, getting diagnosed with either form could take 7-10 years!

That’s a long time to be living with chronic back pain, and that’s why knowledge is power. Becoming familiar with axSpA and its symptoms can lead to a timely diagnosis. And the sooner you get treatment, the sooner you can start to feel better.

Learn more about the two forms of axSpA:

I Have Axial Spondyloarthritis. Now What?

So your doctor has diagnosed you with a form of axial spondyloarthritis, and you’re wondering what’s next. First, take a breath — you are not alone. The Spondylitis Association of America provides a comprehensive hub of helpful resources and tools to help you manage this disease. We’ve worked closely with rheumatologists and other healthcare professionals to ensure you have the support you need.

Access our Newly Diagnosed page and learn more about life after diagnosis.

We’re Here for You

Whether you’re newly diagnosed or suspect axial spondyloarthritis, SAA is here to help you through your journey. From axSpA education and patient support to advocacy work and funding clinical research, we’re committed to helping improve lives through faster diagnoses — and ultimately finding a cure.