SUPER: Karen Ankylosing Spondylitis Patient

KAREN: I was going to college. Graduated. Finally got my degree and was kind of ready to take off running with that.

SUPER: Karen’s symptoms started with pain in her lower back

KAREN, continued: And I was bartending in the meantime, looking for jobs, and I was getting a lot of pain in my lower back and I thought I had pulled something out...

SUPER: Sarah Ankylosing Spondylitis Patient

KAREN, continued: …thought I just maybe lifted something too much, and I need to take it a little bit easier. So, I was taking that approach and it was getting progressively worse. So, I went into my primary.

SUPER: People sometimes mistake inflammatory back pain for a strain

KAREN, continued: She kept thinking it was, you know, just what I thought, that I’d pulled my back out. So, she sent me to physical therapy.

SUPER: Karen struggled to find relief while searching for a diagnosis

KAREN, continued: And I was getting some relief from that, but it wasn’t getting better. It was very hard for me. Like, walking was hard. So, lifting anything and doing all those exercises was quite a challenge.

SUPER: AS symptoms can get worse over time

SARAH: When you were kind of going to different doctors trying to figure out what was going on, did the symptoms kind of grow in intensity? Move to any other parts of your body?

SUPER: Many people aren’t diagnosed with AS until they see a rheumatologist

KAREN: It definitely grew in intensity. I almost started getting like a piriformis like sciatica issue and it was like running down my legs and so I was seeing a chiropractor and that was helping a little bit, but I still was struggling and still going and seeing other doctors. And massage was a huge thing that helped me...

Cut to Sarah

SARAH: Yeah. I have a lot of issues with the muscle tension. And pain relating to that. And also running down my legs as well.

SUPER: AS symptoms can first appear in different areas

SARAH: My knees were really the first area that I had symptoms in...

SUPER: AS can affect spinal mobility and, in severe cases, cause fusing of the spine

SARAH: ... and then as the years went on, it progressed into my spine.

INTERTITLE: What advice would you give to others trying to manage their symptoms?

Cut to Sarah

SARAH: I think that it’s, you know, really difficult to try and take it all on yourself kind of. And when you’re not telling people the truth about how you feel…

Cut to Karen, listening

SARAH, continued: …you know, it also kind of makes you feel very alone with it and that you’re dealing with this on your own.

KAREN: Yeah.

SUPER: Asking for help is okay

SARAH, continued: When really you should be asking people for help. You should be, you know—the people who love and care about you. Like, they don’t think it’s a burden to help you, but at the time you don’t realize that.

Cut to Karen and Sarah

KAREN: No, it took me a long time to realize that, that asking people for help is okay.

SARAH: Yeah.

KAREN: That it was okay not to be okay.

SARAH: Yeah.


Could your pain be AS? Take the 5-Question AS Symptom Quiz >