11 Tips for Managing Ankylosing Spondylitis
- Manage the back pain that accompanies spinal arthritis with these simple tips.Medication plays an important role in treating ankylosing spondylitis (AS). But your treatment plan should also include everyday measures that make your life easier—and, in some cases, prevent your disease from progressing. Try these tips to keep your condition under control.
- 1. See your health care provider regularly.AS is a chronic condition, meaning you’ll cope with it for the rest of your life. It’s important to see your health care provider at least once per year, even when you’re feeling fine. That way, you can detect and treat any developing complications early.
- 2. Get into hot water.You probably notice that your back pain feels worst when you first wake up. Stepping into a steamy tub or shower stall can relieve aches and loosen up stiff muscles and joints.
- 3. Do your exercises.Some motions may feel difficult because of your discomfort. But keeping your muscles and joints moving improves your symptoms in the long term, and may even affect the course of your disease. Ask your health care provider or physical therapist to teach you which exercises are best. Your emphasis should be on moves that extend your back and neck and mobilize your chest and upper body.
- 4. Stay active overall.Physical activity preserves your mobility and keeps your heart and lungs healthy. Try activities that involve a straight posture and stretch your upper body. Walking, hiking, swimming, cross-country skiing, and tennis are all good options. Those that involve continually flexing your spine, such as golfing and long-distance cycling, may feel uncomfortable. Avoid sports that pose a risk for accidents, including downhill skiing, football, or hockey.
- 5. Practice proper posture.Stay as erect as possible when sitting or standing to help alleviate the forward bend that often occurs as your condition progresses. To check your posture, stand sideways in front of a full-length mirror. Imagine dropping a weighted string from the top of your head to your feet. Stand so it passes straight down—through your earlobe, shoulder, center of your hip, behind your kneecap, and in front of your anklebone.
- 6. Work smarter.Professions that involve bending, twisting, or stretching can be tough for people with AS. Instead, choose a job in which you can alternate standing, sitting, and walking. If you work at a desk or computer, make sure you take frequent breaks throughout the day to do basic stretches and flexibility exercises. An inclined or tilted table can help with reading in the proper position.
- 7. Sleep soundly.Posture doesn’t just matter during the day. Take steps to adjust your body position at night, too. Sleep on your back, lying at flat as possible. If you can get comfortable enough, sleep without a pillow under your head to keep your neck from flexing forward. Or use a pillow that is as flat or thin as possible. Also, don’t place a pillow under your knees—this can shorten your muscles and tendons.
- 8. Eat properly.Talk with your health care provider about diet. Ask which foods are likely to make your pain better or worse. Most health care providers recommend limiting red meat to no more than two meals per week, because it may increase inflammation. Consume plenty of calcium and vitamin D, which reduce your risk for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.
- 9. Drive safely.A few simple steps can make maneuvering a car safer and more comfortable. If you have limited motion in your neck, consider installing wide-view side mirrors. A small cushion behind your back can relieve aches. On long drives, stop every hour or two to stretch. Always carry an emergency information card that notifies medical personnel of your condition. And be sure to always wear a seat belt.
- 10. Prevent falls.Falls pose a greater risk if you have AS, because of your fragile backbones. To stay upright, always wear supportive, skid-proof shoes. Hold the handrails when going up and down stairs. Consider installing a shower stall instead of a bathtub, and use a bath mat to prevent slipping. Keep floors in your home well-lit and free of rugs and clutter.
- 11. Join the club.Membership in an organization focused on your condition—such as the Spondylitis Association of America—can go a long way toward improving your health and your life. You’ll benefit from up-to-date information on treatment, as well as legal and legislative support. You’ll also connect with others who face similar struggles. Not only will you feel less alone, you’ll be able to share solutions.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Tips | 11 Tips for Managing Ankylosing Spondylitis