Early Signs of AS That I Didn't Pick Up On
Last updated: March 2023
I am often asked if there were early warning signs prior to my AS diagnosis. I used to believe that there weren’t any and it all happened suddenly. I’ve spoken before about my road to AS diagnosis; I woke up one morning in agony and unable to move. I had always thought that this was the first indication that my body was malfunctioning.
However, as I continue my journey with AS and speak with others who have the condition, more memories have unlocked. I realize now that there were early signs something was wrong. Being a typical male, I did very little at the time to act on these warnings; I opted to ignore them and push on with my life. These are the warning signs that I have since remembered happening in the months that led up to that painful morning.
Okay, there was one obvious sign that I have always known was linked. After years of working as a kindergarten teacher, I had got myself a new job in an office. I started experiencing back pain which I assumed was due to my new sedentary role; I had previously been running after kids all day. I figured I must have been sitting awkwardly so I made an effort to correct my posture going forward. However, this did nothing and the pain was getting worse. I decided it was time to see a doctor.
After examining me, he believed that it was a muscular issue and I had pulled something at the gym. I took this a compliment and evidence that my working out had indeed resulted in some muscles. I was given muscle relaxants and even did a few sessions of acupuncture to try and clear this up. The pills did absolutely nothing but I did enjoy the excitement of having needles flicked into my joints and found that it gave me some short term relief.
In hindsight, I should have pushed the doctors more to find out what was wrong with my back before I woke up immobile that morning, but my toxic masculine side kept telling me to grin and bear it.
I was having some issues with one of my co-workers and we really did not get on. Unfortunately, we lived very close by so I would often find myself walking with her on my commutes to and from the office. One day where I was forced into this less-than-ideal social situation she made a comment to me that annoyed me.
"Why do you walk like that?" she asked me. I raised my eyebrows and replied "like what?" "You walk really funny, your feet are all over the place." I looked down at my feet and couldn’t see what on earth she was talking about. Everything looked regular to me so I simply kissed my teeth and said "Okay then..." hoping that this trip home would soon be over. I assumed she was just finding something to poke fun at to be nasty, such was the nature of our relationship.
Fast forward many months and I was experiencing a very intense flare up and having a huge problems walking unassisted. I managed to get an appointment with a physio to try and help me get back on my feet.
Before we got started on any exercises, he wanted to assess my mobility by watching me attempting to walk. After a brief catwalk using my crutches, he stopped me and instantly commented on the position of my feet. He pointed out that both of my feet were pointing to the side. I didn’t see what the issue was. I guess this had been going on for so long and I was so used to seeing my feet behave in that manner that it did not strike me as unusual.
I’m still not certain what aspect of AS was causing this (would love to hear from anyone that does know in the comments) but after receiving my medication and starting my physio exercises this was soon corrected.
The physio’s comments gave me an instant flashback to the conversation with my co-worker and I realized it was definitely something I should have acted upon. Nevertheless, I still don’t want to give that nasty co-worker any credit for picking up on this!
I was really battling with my mental health at this time. A number of things had happened in my personal life that had led to me feeling very down and lacking motivation. I couldn’t find the energy to go to the gym or socialize with my friends as much as I used to. Instead, I felt as though all I could do was stay in bed and order in meals. I just didn’t have the energy to think about whipping something up in the kitchen.
At the time I thought these feelings were linked to the depression and anxiety I was experiencing. However, since receiving my AS diagnosis, I have experienced periods of fatigue that are very similar. Looking back, I think that although my mindset at the time was probably partially to blame, I was probably experiencing some AS-related fatigue as even during the times my mood was lifted, I still struggled to find any energy.
This won’t change anything
It’s too little too late to do anything with this information now. Even if I did act at the time, it wouldn’t have prevented me from getting AS, but it may have helped diagnose it earlier. I could then have received treatment to stop myself having such an intense 9 month flare.
I thought I’d share this in order to stress the importance of seeing a doctor at the first sign of something changing in your body.
It is so important to address any health problems as early as possible. I regret how I put off visiting the doctor. I could have saved myself months of pain and misery if I wasn’t so stubborn. If you think you may have AS, another condition or are experiencing any unusual symptoms, do please get yourself checked out as soon as possible. There is no harm in going – you will either have the relief of knowing there is nothing wrong or be able to receive treatment to get things sorted or under control nice and early.
The same applies to people who have already been diagnosed with a chronic illness like AS. Not only do these conditions often like turning up inside our bodies in groups, but there are other health conditions that can be linked. So the second you notice something don’t be afraid to ask a doctor about it - it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
What early signs did you pick up on that may have indicated you had AS?
Have you ever had to take a leave of absence from work due to your symptoms?
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