Life with Ankylosing Spondylitis: 6 Self-Care Tips
When you have an ankylosing spondylitis condition, be proactive in your self-managed care. Besides seeing your doctor regularly and taking your prescription medications as prescribed, try these methods to help you live well and have a solid quality of life.
According to Spondylitis Association of America, ankylosing spondylitis (pronounced ank-kih-low-sing spon-dill-eye-tiss), or AS, is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, although other joints can become involved. It causes inflammation of the spinal joints (vertebrae) that can lead to severe, chronic pain and discomfort.
Stay active. Regular exercise can help ease your chronic pain, maintain flexibility and improve your posture. The goal is to prevent permanent stiffness while maintaining a healthy range of motion in your neck and back. Deep-breathing exercises and aerobic activities will help keep your chest and rib cage flexible. Take advantage of aquatic exercises for their comfort and weightlessness. Swimming helps keep your spine, neck, shoulders, and hips flexible.
Maintain good posture. Maintaining proper posture is important to prevent joints from fusing in undesirable positions. Practicing standing straight in front of a mirror can help you avoid some of the problems associated with ankylosing spondylitis.
Apply heat and cold. Heat feels good against an ailing back. When applied to stiff joints and tight muscles, heat compresses and heating pads can do wonders for easing pain and relieving joint stiffness. A hot bath or shower is also recommended for pain relief. Ice on inflamed areas can help reduce swelling.
Don't smoke. If you smoke, you should consider quitting. Smoking is generally bad for your health, but it creates additional problems for people with ankylosing spondylitis, including further hampering your breathing.
Make working easier. Avoid lifting, stooping, and prolonged bending positions, which can aggravate any disc issues that may develop from an AS diagnosis. Request a more ergonomic workspace, if you work in an office. This means having a chair properly fit for your seated desk posture. Adjusting the height of your desk or computer monitor. Once every 30 minutes, stand and practice back stretches or simply move around to prevent stiffness.
Coping and Support
Most people are able to live productive lives despite a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis. If you feel that you need help coping with the condition, or side effects of it, like depression or frustration, you might want to join an online or in-person support group with others experiencing the same painful symptoms as you.
“Peer groups have some theoretical advantages over some other forms of therapy. For example, peer groups provide patients with a sense of helping others with similar problems, and there’s also a sense of cohesiveness, a connection to group members,” said Paul Pfeiffer M.D., lead director of the department of psychiatry at the University of Michigan. “Our chronic back pain patents always say it's a great message of hope to know that the educator was once suffering and had made it on to the other side of the fence.”