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Opioids for Ankylosing Spondylitis

By Wendy Melton ; Updated August 14, 2017

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic condition that affects the joints of the spine and pelvis. The joints may become stiff or fixed due to ligaments adhering one bone to another. AS has symptoms similar to that of rheumatoid arthritis. Medication and exercise have been used to help slow the progression of the disease, but advanced stages of AS can be excruciatingly painful. Opioids, or narcotics, are often prescribed when the pain of AS becomes so severe that it interferes with daily activities.


Vicodin is an opioid/narcotic painkiller. It is a combination of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. Vicodin is prescribed in tablet form and is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Acetaminophen is added to hydrocodone to increase its potency. The hydrocodone in Vicodin can be habit forming. Only the person for whom it has been prescribed should use it. Vicodin may be prescribed in the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis. As the stiffening of the joints progresses, stronger forms of pain relievers may be needed. Vicodin may cause side effects such as drowsiness, lightheadedness, vomiting, headaches and dizziness.


Oxycodone, an opioid/narcotic pain reliever, can only be obtained through a prescription, and a physician should monitor its use. Oxycodone may be obtained in an extended-release form that works around the clock to control pain. Oxycodone is prescribed for patients with ankylosing spondylitis because it has the ability to control pain for several hours without repeating the dosage every few hours. Oxycodone is similar to morphine in its effectiveness. As with other narcotics and opioids, oxycodone carries the risk of becoming habit forming. Oxycodone can have serious side effects including seizure, confusion, headache, dizziness and nausea.


Morphine is a very potent opioid/narcotic painkiller. It may be obtained in tablet form or intravenously while in the hospital. Morphine may not be prescribed unless a person has had prior treatment with other opioid painkillers. Morphine can be obtained for short-term pain relief, or as an extended-release pain reliever. Morphine works by dulling the part of the brain that experiences the perception of pain. According to, morphine is highly addictive and should only be used under the close supervision of a physician.

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