The long story:
In 1990 two things happened to me and for a long time I could not remember which happened first (I now believe my mind was trying to explain the pain and so reversed the order). I started having pain in my lower back but only when I slept and I was hit by a car while riding my bicycle. Both events occurred within a one month window. Once the pain became somewhat regular and intense I went to see my doctor. This was about six months after the events. My doctor and I went with the assumption that the accident came first and my pain was due to the trauma.
I started with the normal therapy for back injuries, massage therapy. It felt really good and the therapist said my back muscles were very tense and so the diagnoses was probably correct. After about one month of therapy the pain went away (Yea!). About three months later the pain returned, worse.
The second course was exercise therapy. I was taught the basic exercises to strengthen the lower back. The one stretch that was supposed to relieve the most pain (lie on your stomach, push up with your hands, like a push-up, push down with your pelvis and point your toes) didn't help. But, bending forward at the hip (a clue that the diagnoses was wrong, but no one picked up on) did help. The exercises helped for about six months.
Now I do not particularly care to visit doctors but the pain kept getting worse. My next course of action was to see an orthopedic surgeon (the thought of surgery really scared the s___ out of me. After an x-ray, a cat scan, and an MRI the surgeon says you have divots on your vertebrae and your disks are getting old (I was 26). He put me on a physical therapy program known as MED-X. It is a commuter assisted nautilus program. It took almost six months, but the pain went away for over a year.
In the spring of 1994 the pain returned and was so bad that the only way out of bed in the morning was to push myself to the edge and fall out. I was tired of doctors and just about everything. I was over the max dosage of Advil and depression was starting to sink in. Thanks to my wife and my mother-in-law I went back to my doctor once more. She could now see just how much pain I was really in and referred me to a rheumatologist. After telling this story and details about the locations and type of pain (about 20 minutes) he was sure that I had AS. He ordered some blood work, scheduled a bone-scan, and prescribed my first anti-inflammatory. The pain was gone in two days. My first full nights sleep in over a year. A week later the bone-scan and blood work provided the proof of AS.
Since then I moved north to keep my job. I started commuting about 50 miles each way. I think the time in my car actually hurt me. The pain returned and would never completely go away. I moved again, this time 7 miles from work. I still had some minor pain and stiffness in the morning. I went a year and a half without a major flare up but my new rheumatologist was a loser. He said because I have no fusion (I do isometrics twice a day) he doubted that I had AS. Time for a new rheumatologist.
Anyway, I now take 2 Celebrex a day, Vicodin when the pain gets bad or one of the nasty headaches I get (more often then I used too). I also take Glucosomine and Chondroitin 3 times a day. I'm not sure if it helps or not but I am willing to try it for a while.
I built one of the earlier websites on AS years ago but because of my job and the births of boys I had to give it up. I believe it is still available at http://www.jps.net/cwlove although I haven't updated it in a long time. I have since moved to a new ISP and maybe I'll build a new page again...