If your symptoms are mostly in your back (axial)

If your symptoms are mostly in your back (axial)

What your GP will look for

If you have low back pain and you go to see your GP, he or she will want to know more about your symptoms to find out if you could have axial spondyloarthritis.

They will want to know how old you were when the pain began and how long it has been going on for. They should also ask if you have any of the following

  • low back pain that started before the age of 35 years

  • waking during the second half of the night because of symptoms

  • buttock pain

  • symptoms that get better when you move around

  • symptoms that get better with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (also known as NSAIDs; for example, ibuprofen)

  • a close relative (parent, brother, sister, son or daughter) with spondyloarthritis

  • any other type of arthritis

  • pain or swelling in your joints that was not caused by an injury

  • psoriasis.

Will I see a specialist?

Doctors who specialise in treating arthritis and related problems are called rheumatologists. Your GP should refer you to a rheumatologist if:

  • your back pain started when you were under the age of 45 and

  • the pain has lasted for longer than 3 months and

  • you have 4 or more symptoms from the list above (what your GP will look for).

If you have 3 symptoms from the list, you should have a blood test to see if you have the HLA‑B27 gene. If the test shows you have the gene, you should be referred to a rheumatologist.

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