What is non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis?
Non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (ax-e-yell-spon-dill-o-arth-rye-tiss) is a chronic inflammatory disease that is commonly referred to as “nr-axSpA.” nr-axSpA mainly affects the spine, but it can also impact other areas such as the chest, hip bone, and buttocks. nr-axSpA generally cannot be detected with X-ray, which is why it is called “non-radiographic.” However, MRIs are sometimes used to detect the presence of joint inflammation due to nr-axSpA.
Signs and symptoms of nr-axSpA include:
- Morning back pain and stiffness
- Spinal inflammation
- Pain in lower back and hips
- Reduced physical function
- Less mobility
What makes nr-axSpA different from back pain?
- Common back pain is typically caused by injury or overuse and usually goes away after 6 weeks; any longer and it may be something more serious
- nr-axSpA is a type of chronic, inflammatory back pain
- nr-axSpA occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy joints, mainly in the spine
- Symptoms may last for 3 months or longer, and can flare on and off
- Although nr-axSpA is a lifelong condition, there are many ways to manage it
What makes nr-axSpA different from ankylosing spondylitis (AS)?
Both nr-axSpA and AS, subtypes of axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA), are chronic inflammatory rheumatic diseases that primarily affect the spine with some notable differences:
- With AS, joint damage is clearly visible on an X-ray, but this is not always the case with nr-axSpA
- The male-to-female ratio of people with nr-axSpA is 1:1, but with AS, the ratio is 3:1
- While both present differently in everyone, AS tends to impact men in the lower back and buttocks, and impacts women more in the hips, neck, shoulders, and knees
- With nr-axSpA, women typically have more widespread pain that can lead to a delayed diagnosis compared to men