1 Lifestyle Tips for Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis, or AS, is an inflammatory joint condition that can cause significant pain in your back, hands, elbows, knees, and ankles. And unfortunately, symptoms of AS can strike around the clock. “These symptoms can greatly affect quality of life, as they may interfere with sleep, waking others during the night, and can cause disability during the day if stiffness and joint swelling persists,” says Apostolos Kontzias, MD, a rheumatologist at the Cleveland Clinic. “Sometimes if chronic symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis aren’t diagnosed in a timely fashion, it may cause mood changes, decreased activity, and more fatigue, which in turn could lead to additional complications such as weight gain, decreased libido, and even depression or fibromyalgia.” Although there’s currently no cure, staying on top of treatment for ankylosing spondylitis can help ward off potential complications. Try these tips from experts and those living with AS to manage the condition and live a healthy, active life.
2 Exercise Regularly
When you’re living with ankylosing spondylitis, regular exercise is key to living well. In fact, back pain caused by AS tends to get worse when you’ve been sitting or lying down for too long, but exercise often helps. Low-impact aerobic exercise can help you manage your weight and ankylosing spondylitis symptoms. “Always listen to your body, and if pain occurs during any type of exercise or strenuous activity, it probably means that you passed your limits,” Dr. Kontzias says. Ricky White, a London-based blogger diagnosed with AS in 2007, agrees. “What you do to exercise almost doesn’t matter as long as it’s not making your pain worse overall,” he says. “What matters is that you do it regularly. For me, I walk a lot.”
3 Work With a Physical Therapist
A physical therapist can be a valuable member of your ankylosing spondylitis treatment team. When you’re living with AS, a physical therapist can guide you toward the most appropriate physical activity regimen, as well as offer tips on managing pain and improving function, with daily practices like soft tissue and joint mobilization and heat and cold therapy. “The main emphasis of physical therapy for ankylosing spondylitis is on education to help people manage their symptoms long-term,” says Andrew Lui, PT, DPT, an associate clinical professor in the department of physical therapy and rehabilitation science at the University of California, San Francisco.
4 Stretch and Strengthen
Kontzias recommends regular stretching and yoga to ease ankylosing spondylitis symptoms, improve posture, and increase flexibility. Work with your doctor or physical therapist to create an individualized stretching and strengthening program that works for your needs in the long term, Lui says. “Like a healthy diet, consistency and longevity with exercise pay big dividends,” he says.