Physiotherapy for ankylosing spondylitis: Systematic review and a proposed rehabilitation protocol.

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of insidious onset, mostly affecting the axial skeleton. It leads to varying degrees of restricted spinal mobility, pain and loss of functional capacity. Rehabilitation, especially Physiotherapy and exercises, are considered integral components of its management. Various rehabilitation modalities are available for the benefit of individuals with AS, but a sequenced protocol has not been reported. A scientific review was performed using the following search engines: MEDLINE (Pubmed), COCHRANE Library and Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro). Studies which had at least one of the group receiving rehabilitation and the major outcomes studied were pain, stiffness, mobility (spine and chest wall) and physical function (disease activity, ADL, QOL and global function) were selected. A total of 19 studies were shortlisted for the review which included a total of 1142 subjects with AS.

The review of literature showed that individuals with AS had beneficial effects from exercise programmes compared to no exercise. Patient education, active involvement and motivation of individuals with AS played an important role in the overall treatment outcomes. Based on the review, a four phase sequenced rehabilitation protocol has been laid down for the benefit of individuals with AS.