Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Arthritis Health Center

Beyond the Back

Font Size
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by David Zelman, MD

Most people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) know about back pain. But other areas of your body can swell and hurt, too.

That’s what happened to 23-year-old Stefanie Gomez. When she was 15 -- before she ever had back pain -- the joints in her toe, ankle, and knee swelled up. They became red, warm, and painful.

Recommended Related to Arthritis

Scleroderma Symptoms

When you have scleroderma, the thing you’re most likely to notice first is that the skin on your fingers, arms, legs, hands, feet, or face tightens, gets harder, or gets thicker. Help is available, though. Your doctor has treatments to manage scleroderma symptoms, which can also include: Swelling, stiffness, or pain in the fingers, toes, hands, feet, or face Puffy skin Discolored skin Fingers and toes that react strongly to cold -- they may look white and hurt. This is called Raynaud's...

Read the Scleroderma Symptoms article > >

It’s pretty common for AS to first show up in places other than your spine. That’s especially true for people who are younger than 16.

It wasn’t long before Gomez, now a social worker in San Francisco, had problems in her sacroiliac (SI) joints. Those are the places where your spine meets your pelvis. Everyone with AS has inflammation in at least one of their SI joints.

Since then, Gomez has had painful flares in her hip about twice a month. “Sometimes I’m late for work because of a flare-up, or I avoid seeing friends because I know I’ll be in pain,” she says.

Gomez’s main triggers are cold weather, stress, and poor eating.

“At the first sign of stiffness, I get in the shower and the pressure of the water helps me get back to moving,” she says.

Ankylosing Spondylitis Is an All-Over Problem

“This is a systemic disease that affects the whole body,” says Lianne Gensler, MD. She's the director of the Ankylosing Spondylitis Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco. So don’t be surprised when other areas of your body become affected, she says.

Here’s how many people with AS get symptoms beyond their SI joint:

  • Middle to upper back: 50%-70%
  • Neck: 75%
  • Eyes: 40%
  • Heel or shoulders: 30%
  • Knees: 20%
  • Wrist, toes, or fingers: 5%

Having symptoms in places other than your back can mean that you have a more serious form of the disease. Knowing how to spot the signs can help you get treatment sooner and hopefully prevent further damage.

1 | 2 | 3
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Mature woman exercise at home
Hint: Warming up first is crucial.
feet with gout
Quiz yourself.
woman in pain
One idea? Eat fish to curb inflammation.
senior couple walking
Can you keep your RA from progressing?
xray of knees with osteoarthritis
close up of man wearing dress shoes
feet with gout
close up of red shoe in shoebox
two male hands
Woman massaging her neck
5 Lupus Risk Factors