Pharmaceutical company Abbvie, in conjunction with Arthritis Australia recently launched a campaign promoting a new symptom screener questionnaire, Dont Turn Your Back on Pain, designed to help those with unresolved chronic back pain discover the possible cause of their discomfort.

The 5-step screener1 was designed to help promote awareness of inflammatory back conditions, such as Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS), as a possible cause of back pain.

AS is an autoimmune condition (where the body’s immune system dysfunctions and attacks healthy cells) and also a form of arthritis. It causes inflammation in the joints such as those in the spine, the pelvis and, sometimes, in other parts of the body. If left untreated, this inflammation can lead to an erosion of the joints – causing a build-up of scar tissue which can eventually cause the joints to fuse together.

Too often, AS is misdiagnosed as a mechanical or muscular disorder or injury and treated with pain-killers and some sort of physical therapy. While the symptoms of AS (and similar forms of inflammatory arthritis) are often helped by such treatments, the underlying inflammation and joint degeneration continue to progress undetected.

Fortunately, when conditions such as these are diagnosed early, disease progression can be slowed or halted using appropriate medication. This could mean the difference between having severely restricted movement from a hunched and fused spine or being able to live a normal life.

For more information and to complete the inflammatory back pain symptom screener, visit

1. Inflammatory back pain screener adapted from ASAS IBP criteria: Sieper J et al. Ann Rheum Dis 2009;68:784–788.