Link Between Spinal Arthritis and Bowel Disease

People who suffer from an inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, typically end up under the care of a gastroenterologist. But an inflamed bowel can result in symptoms not directly related to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) may have a higher likelihood of arthritis in the spine as well.

Spondyloarthritis (SpA), or arthritis in the vertebral column, is the most common symptom of IBD that is not related to digestion. A new study published by the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology sought the prevalence of SpA among IBD patients. Researchers also investigated whether or not these patients were being referred to rheumatologists for their musculoskeletal symptoms.

The study included interviews with 350 consecutive GI clinic patients with IBD about the presence and history of common SpA symptoms, such as inflammatory back pain, peripheral arthritis, psoriasis, and drug reactions to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Researchers also studied the patients' files looking for rheumatic diagnosis or referrals to rheumatologists.

The study found that almost 37% of the patients with bowel disease suffered at least one symptom of arthritis in the spinal column. They did find a significant difference in risk between patients with Crohn's and patients with ulcerative colitis. Among this group with SpA symptoms, the medical records revealed that only about 51% of the patients had ever visited a rheumatologist.

Of the 129 patients with SpA symptoms, approximately 27% were diagnosed with axial SpA and 30% were diagnosed with peripheral SpA. Another 21% were diagnosed with another rheumatic disorder.

The authors of the study concluded that arthritis in the spine is a common problem for people with bowel diseases such as Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Because the study revealed that a large number of these patients are not evaluated by a rheumatologist, they determined that gastroenterologists play an important role in early referrals.

If you're suffering from spondyloarthritis, a chiropractor might also be able to help. Don't hesitate to make an appointment with your chiropractor to discuss treatment options.


Stolwijk C, et al. Prevelance of self-reported spondyloarthritis features in a cohort of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology 2013; 27(4): 199-205.