My Back Is Killing Me is part of a new campaign about back pain awareness from the nonprofit patient community CreakyJoints. The videos in this campaign were produced with support from Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. Watch episode 1, episode 2, episode 3, and episode 4 here if you haven’t seen them.
To take our quiz about back pain and watch more videos, visit creakyjoints.org/backpain.
In My Back Is Killing Me the police officer and detective are actors, but the “victims” are actual patients with chronic pain and the rheumatologist, Fardina Malik, MD, is a practicing physician at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. Watch more of Hannah’s, Jed’s, and Roz’s patient stories in our companion series My Backstory. Watch more of Dr. Malik here.
After realizing there were some critical patterns in common among various unsolved back pain cases, the Joint Task Force decides to bring in a rheumatologist, a special doctor that treats joint pain and certain systemic autoimmune diseases, to discuss their current case.
It doesn’t take the doctor long to figure out what’s happening.
“This pain is very different from mechanical back pain,” the doctor concludes. “After carefully listening to her symptoms and doing a thorough examination, I’m strongly suspecting this pain is inflammatory.”
The doctor tells the Joint Task Force that the victim’s symptoms have a name: ankylosing spondylitis.
“It’s a type of chronic arthritis that causes inflammation of the spine. It typically starts in early adulthood and — if left untreated — can cause the bones in the spine to fuse together,” she explains.
Tying together a lot of the clues among the various case files, the doctor goes on: “Patients with AS tend to have chronic back pain which lasts more than three months. Pain can wake them up in the middle of the night and they feel very stiff when they wake up in the morning. Rest makes it worse.”
Concerned, Detective Anders asks if there’s a cure.
“Not yet,” says the doctor. “But we do have medications that can minimize symptoms and ease the flare-ups. But the most important thing is to come to a rheumatologist and get diagnosed ASAP.”
At this point, the Joint Task Force brings in their victim to explain what’s going on.
“Is it true?” she asks the doctor hopefully. “Do you know why my back is killing me?”
After learning about ankylosing spondylitis from the doctor, the victim is visibly relieved. “I finally know why my back is killing me,” she says excitedly. “I can do something about my problem and move on with my life.”
Could your chronic back pain possibly be ankylosing spondylitis too? Learn more at creakyjoints.org/backpain.