How Non-Radiographic Axial Spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA) Is Treated

If left untreated, this inflammatory arthritis can progress or lead to complications.

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Living with back pain can be very limiting. You may avoid activities you used to love, or you may have a hard time carrying out basic, everyday activities. Because back pain is so common, many people just try to “push through” the pain—but seeking treatment can drastically improve your quality of life.

Furthermore, if you have an inflammatory cause of back pain like non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA), treatment is crucial. Untreated, this inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine can progress or lead to complications. In fact, nr-axSpA can be an early-stage ankylosing spondylitis, which is when the spine can fuse together and become immobile.

The Goals of Treatment

Of course, the primary goals of treatment for nr-axSpA are to reduce symptoms and maintain function. Chronic back pain is the hallmark symptom of nr-axSpA, but people may also experience pain and inflammation in other parts of their body as well. Learn more about the symptoms of nr-axSpA.

Additionally, a major goal of nr-axSpA treatment is to prevent complications. This includes preventing the fusing of the vertebrae (which may be seen in ankylosing spondylitis), as well as related autoimmune diseases, such as psoriasis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

How nr-axSpA Is Treated

There are many treatment options available for nr-axSpA. The type of treatment that’s right for you is based on the characteristics and severity of the disease.

The first line of treatment is often non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and other forms of therapy, such as:

  • Physical therapy, which may include posture training, range of motion exercises, stretching, recreational activities, and hydrotherapy.
  • Patient education and counseling on how to manage the condition in everyday life (e.g., how to quit smoking).
  • Mental health support and treatment

If NSAIDs don’t work, doctors may consider other medicines called disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) or biologics. Common medicines used for the treatment of nr-axSpA include:

  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors: These are a type of biologic medication that blocks the action of an inflammatory cytokine in the immune system to help relieve pain and inflammation.
  • Interleukin-17 (IL-17) inhibitors: These are a type of biologic that interleukin-17 (IL-17), which are cytokines that regulate the immune response.

If you have questions about treatment options and what plan of action is right for you, talk to your doctor.