Rheumatoid arthritis of the spine is a commonly encountered cause of backache, especially that occurring among male patients of the second and third decades of life. The disease is characterized by periods of active symptoms which alternate with periods of partial or complete freedom from discomfort. After a variable number of years (average fifteen to twentyfive) the process becomes permanently inactive. The end result of the disorder is the production of the so-called "poker spine."
In the evolution of the current concept of rheumatoid arthritis of the spine many synonyms are still in use. The varied terminology serves to confuse one not thoroughly familiar with the fact that involvement of the sacroiliac joints and lumbosacral, dorsal and cervical levels of the spine represents the usual progression of one and the same disease—rheumatoid spondylitis. Synonyms frequently encountered in the literature are Marie-Strumpell's disease, spondylitis ossificans ligamentosa of Knaggs, von Bechterew's syndrome,