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Diseases > Ankylosing Spondylitis | AS > Medications for AS

Medications for AS can help make living with the disease much more comfortable and help to improve function and mobility. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as NSAIDs and corticosteroids are groups of medications that can reduce inflammation, pain and stiffness. Other medications called analgesics can help reduce pain. Biologics are the most advanced and targeted medications for AS available so far. These medications are considered a major breakthrough in the treatment of AS.

For more detailed information about specific medications used to treat AS, refer to the Medications Section of RheumInfo.com.

NSAIDs

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs are medications that reduce the inflammation of joints caused by AS.

They also help to reduce symptoms such as pain. Luckily there are about 20 different anti-inflammatory medications available. So if one doesn’t work for you, try another.

Corticosteroids (prednisone)

Medications like prednisone can help control inflammation in some people. Usually, prednisone isn’t that effective for AS. However, in high doses for short periods of time it can be an effective medication to control the symptoms of AS. When used for long periods of time, prednisone can have side effects. You should to discuss the risks and benefits of using prednisone with your rheumatologist. Some patients also benefit from cortisone injections directly into a joint. This should be discussed with your rheumatologist.

Analgesics

Analgesic medications only control pain. They do nothing to control the disease or to prevent further joint damage. Analgesics can range from simple things like acetaminophen (Tylenol) to more potent narcotics like morphine.

DMARDs

The Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) have been traditionally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. They aren’t used as often in AS because they don’t work as well. As a general rule, DMARDs such as methotrexate or sulfasalazine don’t work to help symptoms in your back. However, they can be helpful for other swollen joints like the knees or hips.

Biologics

Until about a decade ago, there were few other options for people with AS if anti-inflammatory medications weren’t enough to control their disease. That’s not the case today – people with AS whose pain and stiffness aren’t relieved by anti-inflammatory drugs can turn to a group of medications called anti-TNF biologics.

Anti-TNF biologics are extremely effective and can make a big difference for people with AS. There are now 5 anti-TNF biologics available including Humira, Remicade, Enbrel, Cimzia, and Simponi. With 5 different anti-TNF biologics to choose from, if one doesn’t work, your rheumatologist may suggest another.

Natural Remedies / Complementary Therapies

There are no known natural remedies or complementary therapies that have been proven to help AS in any significant way. However, it’s important to check with your rheumatologist to make sure that nothing interacts with your medication if you choose to use natural remedies or complementary therapies.

Surgery

In the most severe cases of AS the joints of the spine and/or the pelvis are so badly damaged that they fuse together. When that happens, surgery may be necessary. Surgery usually involves replacing a damaged joint with an artificial joint, most commonly the hip. Surgery can help people with severe, advanced AS by reducing pain, improving their mobility and restoring their functioning. Surgery of the spine is more complex. This type of surgery is usually reserved only for people with severe deformity due to AS.