Who should be on your ankylosing spondylitis (AS) healthcare team?

Published Jan 12, 2024 • By Claudia Lima

Living with ankylosing spondylitis can be difficult: managing this condition requires a multidisciplinary approach involving a wide range of healthcare professionals, so building the right healthcare team can make all the difference.

Which doctors can deal with the complexity of this chronic condition? 

From rheumatologists who diagnose ankylosing spondylitis to physiotherapists who improve mobility, it is important to find specialists who can provide effective care and improve patients' quality of life.

We explain it all in our article!

Who should be on your ankylosing spondylitis (AS) healthcare team?

What is ankylosing spondylitis (AS)?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the joints of the spine, hips or lower back. It is a form of arthritis caused by immunological disorders.

Ankylosing spondylitis causes inflammation of the enthesis, a part of the bone where tendons, ligaments and capsules are inserted. When this inflammation subsides, it leaves a scar made up of fibrous tissue, which gradually ossifies. The main symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis are joint pain, joint stiffness and chronic fatigue.

What healthcare professionals should you see for your ankylosing spondylitis (AS)? 

Several specialists may be involved in the management of ankylosing spondylitis.

To begin with, a primary care physician is often the first healthcare professional you see if you notice the first symptoms of AS. It is this doctor who will refer you to a rheumatologist for more in-depth tests.


A rheumatologist is a doctor specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of autoimmune and inflammatory rheumatic diseases, including ankylosing spondylitis.

They play an important role in confirming the diagnosis, prescribing medication, deciding on treatment options and monitoring the progress of the disease. They are also responsible for building up your healthcare team, together with other specialist doctors.

In addition, a nurse specializing in rheumatology can educate patients on disease management, and teach them how to administer medication and monitor their symptoms.

Orthopedic surgeon 

An orthopedic surgeon focuses on managing joint problems associated with ankylosing spondylitis.

In some cases, ankylosing spondylitis can lead to joint damage and deformity, particularly in the spine. An orthopedic surgeon may be needed if surgery is required, for example, joint replacement or correction of deformities to improve mobility and reduce pain.

Physical therapist 

Physical therapy is an important part of ankylosing spondylitis management.

A physical therapist specializes in designing exercise programs to improve flexibility, strength and posture. Regular physical therapy sessions can help patients maintain joint function, reduce pain and improve their general well-being.

Physical therapy can be tailored to each patient, depending on their specific needs and functional limitations.

Pain management doctor (algologist) 

An algologist (or pain management doctor) specializes in pain management. Their aim is to relieve discomfort, by prescribing drug treatments or alternative treatment methods.

On the whole, the role of pain management doctor is to suggest comprehensive pain management strategies, tailored to each patient. They assess pain and suggest treatment combinations, regularly monitoring their effectiveness and making the necessary adjustments.


When you suffer with ankylosing spondylitis, other parts of the body can be involved other than joints, for example, the eyes. Uveitis, inflammation of the uvea (the middle layer of the eye), is a frequent complication associated with this disease.

An ophthalmologist can treat eye problems and monitor their progress, in order to avoid complications and preserve your eyesight. Regular eye check-ups are therefore essential.

Mental health professional

Living with a chronic illness such as ankylosing spondylitis can have a significant emotional and psychological impact.

A psychologist or psychiatrist can help you cope with the burden of the disease, manage stress and any mental health issues you may have, in order to improve your overall well-being and the effectiveness of treatment.

Nutritionist or dietitian 

To maintain good general health and manage ankylosing spondylitis, it is important to have a well-balanced diet.

A dietitian can help you establish nutritional strategies to manage certain symptoms, for example, inflammation of the joints.

Pulmonologist (Lung doctor) 

When spondylitis affects the joints of the thoracic cage, breathing becomes painful. This may result in respiratory failure, as the lungs are no longer able to perform their role correctly. Much more rarely, the lungs may lose their elasticity (a condition called fibrosis).

A pulmonologist can assess the state of your respiratory system, give advice on breathing exercises and suggest treatment options in the event of respiratory complications.

Occupational therapist 

Occupational therapists provide advice on various adjustments and technical aids that can make your daily life easier, particularly at home.

The role of an occupational therapist is to help patients maintain their independence despite all the challenges they face in their everyday life due to their condition.

An occupational therapist can assess your abilities and limitations, suggest different techniques in order to protect the affected joints, teach you how to avoid getting tired too quickly while doing your everyday tasks, and recommend the use of special devices and equipment (e.g. crutches).


Ankylosing spondylitis can cause pain in your feet, ankles, toes and heels, in which case you may need to use special equipment designed to reduce foot pain and prevent deformity, which can be prescribed by a podiatrist, a doctor specializing in treating the conditions of the feet.

It is important to note that osteopaths and chiropractors should not be part of your healthcare team if your spine is affected by the disease. Manipulating the spine is contraindicated in ankylosing spondylitis.

All the healthcare professionals mentioned above play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of ankylosing spondylitis. They guide patients through various treatment options, helping them manage the disease effectively and improve their quality of life.

The management of ankylosing spondylitis is therefore based on a multidisciplinary approach, where collaboration between several healthcare professionals is necessary to provide a comprehensive treatment plan, tailored to the specific needs of each patient.

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Take care!
avatar Claudia Lima

Author: Claudia Lima, Health Writer

Claudia is a content creator at Carenity, specializing in health writing.

Claudia holds a master's degree in Entrepreneurship and an Executive MBA in Sales and Marketing Management. She is specialized in... >> Learn more


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