Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About MySpondylitisTeam
Powered By
See answer

Managing Ankylosing Spondylitis and Neck Pain

Medically reviewed by Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Written by Max Mugambi
Updated on April 6, 2021

Neck Pain | Impact | Management | Get Support

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an advanced form of axial spondyloarthritis. AS causes inflammation and new bone growth in the spine. This can cause chronic pain and stiffness in the low back, rib cage, and neck.

As the body responds to increased inflammation by producing more calcium around the spine, more bone grows, causing further pain and stiffness. Over time, some of the bones in the spine may fuse into immobility, sometimes forcing the spine to curve forward.

Neck pain is a common symptom of AS and a frequently discussed topic on MySpondylitisTeam. Here, we’ll explore some of the most popular treatment options for managing neck pain on a daily basis.

Neck Pain in Ankylosing Spondylitis

Neck pain and stiffness due to ankylosing spondylitis often appears when lower back pain progresses up the spine into the neck, which can take several months or years. It’s important to note, however, that the symptoms of AS can present atypically — pain may start in the neck instead of the lower back. This presentation occurs in women more often than men.

Neck pain caused by ankylosing spondylitis is inflammatory rather than mechanical (created by stress and strain on the muscles of the back, such as from lifting heavy objects). AS neck pain may feel muscular in nature, and the neck may stiffen, reducing its range of motion. This combination of neck pain and stiffness can significantly impact daily life.

AS neck pain and stiffness may make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. People with AS also report having difficulty walking with their heads up, due to stiff and painful joints.

Neck pain and spondylitis: why it’s more common in women than men

The Impact of Ankylosing Spondylitis Neck Pain

Out of the nearly 14,000 members of MySpondylitisTeam with ankylosing spondylitis, more than 1,200 report having neck pain. One member shared the intensity of their pain: “Neck pain brings tears to my eyes. The pain is so bad it feels like my head’s going to rip off my neck. I can’t hold my head up.” Another member wrote, “I also have extreme tenderness in my head and neck, which brings up some scary symptoms. I can’t even walk a mile because of this. I also can’t walk a lot when my neck is subluxated [partially dislocated].”

Members of MySpondylitisTeam frequently discuss their experiences with neck pain. “If I sit for more than an hour,” one member wrote, “my tailbone and neck hurt.” Others say the pain can be exhausting and discouraging. “Extreme back and neck pain,” one member wrote. “[I’m feeling] depressed.” Another said, “Chronic neck and back pain is exhausting.”

Ways to Manage Ankylosing Spondylitis Neck Pain

If you’re experiencing neck pain as a result of ankylosing spondylitis, there are many ways to manage it. Treatment options include home remedies like using a heating pad, exercises, and medications. Meditation may even help manage neck pain by reducing emotional and mental strain.

Medications for Neck Pain

The first line of treatment for AS pain is usually over-the-counter pain relievers, such as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs Aleve (Naproxen) and Ibuprofen. These NSAIDs can help relieve neck pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the short term.

Your doctor may also prescribe steroids to reduce inflammation for short-term relief of AS neck pain flare-ups. Steroids are often given as injections administered directly into the swollen joint or as a slow-release injection into a muscle. The steroid Prednisone may also be administered in the form of a tablet for short-term relief of neck pain in AS.

Surgery for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Most people with AS don’t need surgery. However, in rare cases, surgery can help eliminate pain and improve neck movement. A procedure known as an osteotomy may be used to fuse curved vertebrae and straighten the spine. Another option, known as a laminectomy or decompression surgery, may be performed to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.

Deciding whether to have surgery for AS pain is entirely personal. This process should involve your doctor and a specialist, such as a spinal surgeon. Your rheumatologist can help you understand whether you might be a good candidate for surgery.

Exercise

Regular exercise can help increase or maintain your range of neck movement, helping to manage your pain. Exercise has a number of added benefits that may improve your pain and stiffness, including improved posture, better sleep, and muscle strengthening.

A routine of a few easy exercises each day — such as simple stretching exercises in the morning after a hot shower — may be a good place to start. You can also take pain medication before exercising, if it helps you stay comfortable.

There are several types of exercise that may be appropriate for people with ankylosing spondylitis, such as swimming, yoga, Pilates, and tai chi. The National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society offers online exercises tailor-made for people with ankylosing spondylitis.

As always, talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine. It’s also a good idea to start slowly, gradually building up the frequency and intensity of your exercise. If you ever experience pain or find it hard to perform an exercise, stop immediately and consult your doctor or physical therapist.

Physical Therapy for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Physical therapy can be an important part of managing neck pain caused by ankylosing spondylitis. A physical therapist can create a suitable program of exercises to build strength and keep your neck flexible. They can also help you maintain good posture to take pressure off your neck and offer some special exercises, such as hydrotherapy (also called aquatic therapy), to help improve your pain.

Meditation Techniques for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Meditation may help with neck pain relief when done consistently. Several members of MySpondylitisTeam regularly use meditation to ease their symptoms. One member shared, “All it is, really, is deep thought and learning to control thoughts as they come into your head.” They also added a bit of advice: “For meditation, look online at guided meditations on YouTube.”

Another MySpondylitisTeam member said, “I started seeing a therapist, and she recommended taking a mindfulness class. I’m on week three now, and it has really been helping me change my mindset and love myself and my body more.”

It may take some time to get used to the practice of meditation, and it may not work for everyone. As one MySpondylitisTeam member recalled. “I laughed my tail off every time I listened to a recording my doctor gave me. It did not work for me!”

Some of the most popular forms of meditation for ankylosing spondylitis include active meditation, mindfulness, and yoga breathing.

Active Meditation

Active meditation is about focusing on the present moment, acknowledging and letting go of any thoughts, feelings, and sensations that arise. You can do this while walking, standing in line, or doing chores around the house.

Mindfulness

Like active meditation, mindfulness involves being tuned into the present moment. This helps you address negative thinking, which can add to the emotional and mental stress of living with a chronic condition like AS. Instead of thinking or worrying about your neck pain, mindfulness can help you acknowledge it, accept it, and let it go.

Yoga Breathing

To practice yoga breathing, sit comfortably in a relaxed position and focus on each breath as you inhale and exhale. Try to hold your breath, slowly letting it go: inhale for four seconds, and exhale for six seconds. Do this for at least two minutes.

Home Remedies for Ankylosing Spondylitis Neck Pain

A simple home remedy for neck pain and stiffness is heat therapy. You can use an electric heating pad, hot water compress, or microwavable heating pad. A warm bath or shower are also options. Take care not to overheat compresses or use water that is too hot.

You Are Not Alone With Neck Pain

When you join MySpondylitisTeam, you become part of a community of more than 54,000 people who understand life with spondylitis. More than a quarter of MySpondylitisTeam members have ankylosing spondylitis, and many share ways to deal with neck pain.

Take a look at some discussions about neck stiffness and pain on MySpondylitisTeam:

Have you felt neck pain and stiffness from ankylosing spondylitis? What have you found that eases your symptoms? Share your experience with neck pain in the comments below or on MySpondylitisTeam.

Updated on April 6, 2021

A MySpondylitisTeam Member

I have severe neck pain and stiffness much of the time, but find physical therapy useful. My neurologist also prescribed Qulipta for the headaches caused by my neck inflammation. It works well so far… read more

posted January 16
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

We'd love to hear from you! Please share your name and email to post and read comments.

You'll also get the latest articles directly to your inbox.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

Subscribe now to ask your question, get answers, and stay up to date on the latest articles.

Get updates directly to your inbox.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
My Neck Was My First Clue About AS.
November 25, 2023 by A MySpondylitisTeam Member 21 answers
What Is The Best To Determine Ankolysis Spondylitis CT/MRI?
January 23, 2024 by A MySpondylitisTeam Member 6 answers
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D. is an internal medicine and rheumatology specialist. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Max Mugambi is a copywriter at MyHealthTeam with more than five years of experience writing about a diverse range of subjects. Learn more about him here.

Related Articles

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of chronic inflammatory arthritis. In ankylosing spondyliti...

Foot and Heel Pain With Ankylosing Spondylitis: 5 Ways To Relieve Enthesitis

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of chronic inflammatory arthritis. In ankylosing spondyliti...
Headaches aren’t among the most common symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis...

Can Ankylosing Spondylitis Cause Headaches?

Headaches aren’t among the most common symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis...
Jaw pain is a common complication for people with ankylosing spondylitis and other types of arthr...

Jaw Pain With Ankylosing Spondylitis: Causes and Management

Jaw pain is a common complication for people with ankylosing spondylitis and other types of arthr...
For some people, ankylosing spondylitis can lead to less common symptoms like changes in their fi...

6 Ways Ankylosing Spondylitis Can Affect the Nails

For some people, ankylosing spondylitis can lead to less common symptoms like changes in their fi...
Do you experience bone pain, especially when resting? This may be a symptom of bone marrow edema ...

Bone Marrow Edema and Ankylosing Spondylitis

Do you experience bone pain, especially when resting? This may be a symptom of bone marrow edema ...
“Anyone else suffering from neck pain and shoulder pain?” one MySpondylitisTeam member asked. Ano...

Managing Shoulder Pain With Ankylosing Spondylitis

“Anyone else suffering from neck pain and shoulder pain?” one MySpondylitisTeam member asked. Ano...

Recent Articles

MyHealthTeam does not provide health services, and if you need help, we’d strongly encourage you ...

Crisis Resources

MyHealthTeam does not provide health services, and if you need help, we’d strongly encourage you ...
MySpondylitisTeam surveyed members about how symptoms affect their lives and how they feel about ...

How Spondyloarthritis Symptoms and Treatments Affect Lives

MySpondylitisTeam surveyed members about how symptoms affect their lives and how they feel about ...
In a recent survey of MySpondylitisTeam members, many reported feeling unwell, living with pain, ...

Living With Ankylosing Spondylitis Flares: MySpondylitisTeam Members on What It’s Like

In a recent survey of MySpondylitisTeam members, many reported feeling unwell, living with pain, ...
Welcome to MySpondylitisTeam — the place to connect with others living with spondylitis. This vi...

Getting Started on MySpondylitisTeam (VIDEO)

Welcome to MySpondylitisTeam — the place to connect with others living with spondylitis. This vi...
Watch this video for some guidance on what questions to ask your doctor about side effects for a ...

Side Effects of Biologics: What To Know (VIDEO)

Watch this video for some guidance on what questions to ask your doctor about side effects for a ...
Watch this video featuring commonly asked questions about nr-axSpA treatment for questions you mi...

Finding the Right nr-axSpA Treatment (VIDEO)

Watch this video featuring commonly asked questions about nr-axSpA treatment for questions you mi...
MySpondylitisTeam My spondylitis Team

Thank you for subscribing!

Become a member to get even more:

sign up for free

close