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Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology
Volume 15 (2001), Issue 6, Pages 399-403

Musculoskeletal Manifestations in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Giovanni Fornaciari,1 Carlo Salvarani,2 Marina Beltrami,1 PierLuigi Macchioni,2 Reinhold W Stockbrügger,3 and Maurice G Russel3

1Unit of Gastroenterology, Arcispedale S Maria Nuova, Reggio Emilia, Italy
2Unit of Rheumatology, Arcispedale S Maria Nuova, Reggio Emilia, Italy
3Department of Gastroenterology University Hospital Maastricht, Netherlands

Received 28 November 1999; Accepted 30 November 1999

Copyright © 2001 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Muscoloskeletal manifestations are the most common extraintestinal complications of inflammatory bowel disease. Wide ranges in prevalence have been reported, depending on the criteria used to define spondylarthropathy. In 1991, the European Spondylarthropathy Study Group developed classification criteria that included previously neglected cases of undifferentiated spondylarthropathies, which had been ignored in most of the oldest epidemiological studies on inflammatory bowel disease. The spectrum of muscoloskeletal manifestations in inflammatory bowel disease patients includes all of the clinical features of spondylarthropathies: peripheral arthritis, inflammatory spinal pain, dactylitis, enthesitis (Achilles tendinitis and plantar fasciitis), buttock pain and anterior chest wall pain. Radiological evidence of sacroiliitis is common but not obligatory. The articular manifestations begin either concomitantly or subsequent to the bowel disease; however, the onset of spinal disease often precedes the diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease. The prevalence of the different muscoloskeletal manifestations is similar in ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Symptoms usually disappear after proctocolectomy. The pathogenetic mechanisms that produce the muscoloskeletal manifestations in inflammatory bowel disease are unclear. Several arguments favour an important role of the intestinal mucosa in the development of spondylarthropathy. The natural history is characterized by periods of flares and remission; therefore, the efficacy of treatment is difficult to establish. Most patients respond to rest, physical therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, but these drugs may activate bowel disease. Sulphasalazine may be recommended in some patients. There is no indication for the systemic use of steroids.