Talking to your GP about AS

Talking to your GP about AS

It’s not unusual for people with axial spondyloarthritis to say they didn’t feel equipped for their initial conversation with their GP about symptoms. It can be overwhelming, or upsetting trying to explain and convey your concerns – particularly during such a short appointment.

Meanwhile, GPs themselves may only have 10-15 minutes to try to fully understand your worries and devise a suitable action plan. As you can imagine, that can be quite difficult bearing in mind the various ways that axial SpA can present itself.

Dr Daniel Murphy (GP, Rheumatologist, and Medical Advisor to NASS) explains his top tips for how to prepare for a GP appointment, if you are concerned that you may have axial spondyloarthritis. These tips will not only hopefully be helpful for you but will also be super helpful for your GP.

If you haven’t already explored our axial SpA symptom checker also, please click here.


Be honest about why you are there. What are you worried about? What are your concerns? What are you hoping that your GP might do?

At the start of your appointment, explaining that you have been on the NASS website, used the online symptom checker and you are really concerned that you might have axial SpA is super helpful. It allows the rest of the appointment to flow efficiently and smoothly, while ensuring that you get the help that you need. Essentially, you are helping your GP to help you.


We understand that sometimes when people attend the surgery, it can feel slightly overwhelming and it may be easy to forget the symptoms that are really important to you. Recounting pain, stiffness, fatigue and extreme tiredness and other symptoms may also be really upsetting.

Writing a list can be extremely helpful, both for yourself and for your GP. It ensures that you convey the symptoms that are most important to you. Which in turn helps your GP to understand your experience and develop an action plan to best help you.


When considering a diagnosis of axial SpA, your doctor may ask you some questions that at first seem a little bit unusual. They may ask you questions about your eyes or your skin or your bowels that may not at first glance seem to be connected to your symptoms. But such questions really help your GP build up a bigger picture about the likelihood of you having axial SpA.

Watch the video by Consultant Rheumatologist Dr Raj Sengupta, if you want to know more about the signs and symptoms of axial SpA. Some of these may seem a bit unusual!


Your GP is there to help you. They are an expert and see people with symptoms of fatigue, back pain and other potential signs of axial SpA all the time.

Your appointment is a shared conversation, so if you have questions, feel confident to ask. If your GP has come to a decision about your treatment and you are not clear about the reasoning behind that, ask a question. Not only will this help you, but it will help your GP make sure that you are happy and understand the decisions that have been made.


We have worked with experts in axial SpA to develop a handy symptom checker. It will take you through a series of questions that will help you understand whether you should speak to your GP about axial SpA. You can also print off the results, to show your GP and that will really help them understand the symptoms you’re experiencing.

Check your symptoms here.

Symptoms starting slowly

Pain in the lower back

Improves with movement

Night time waking

Early onset (under 40)