6 tips for living well with ankylosing spondylitis

These lifestyle changes can help decrease the pain and stiffness of ankylosing spondylitis.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that primarily affects the spine. It can cause back pain and stiffness and affect other parts of the body — but there are things you can do to manage the condition.

Consider these 6 lifestyle changes to live well with ankylosing spondylitis.

1. Stay active.

Exercise helps lessen pain and improves your posture. It also decreases fatigue. Make sure to get several types of exercise, including:

  • Aerobic exercise, which can help you breathe easier and boost your mood in addition to reducing pain. Consider low-impact aerobic exercise such as swimming, brisk walking, the elliptical, cycling or dancing.
  • Strength-building exercise, which builds muscle to support your body. Try free weights, resistance bands, or body-weight exercises such as pushups, standing squats, planks or exercises on a fitness ball.

2. Be sure to stretch.

Stretching is important for everyone, and it is particularly beneficial if you have ankylosing spondylitis. Make time for light, gentle stretching — even on days you don't exercise. A good time for this is right after a warm shower or bath. Stretching at night may help you sleep.

3. Stand up straight.

Mom was right — posture is important. Practice standing straight in front of a mirror. This will help make good posture a habit, which can reduce ankylosing spondylitis symptoms.

4. Quit smoking.

Smoking is bad for your health in general, but it can make it harder for people with ankylosing spondylitis to breathe.

5. Get plenty of calcium and vitamin D.

Calcium helps build strong bones, while vitamin D helps your body better absorb calcium. The combination of these nutrients can help maintain your bone health, which is very important when you have ankylosing spondylitis.

  • Find calcium in low-fat dairy products, such as yogurt and cheese, canned salmon, tofu, broccoli, and dark leafy greens, such as kale.
  • Find vitamin D in sunlight, eggs, and fish such as swordfish, salmon and canned tuna.

6. Join a support group.

Joining a group that understands ankylosing spondylitis can be really beneficial, especially during times when your symptoms are more painful. You can learn from others, share your experiences and feel supported as you manage your condition.

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Feb. 22, 2023 See more In-depth