Ankylosing spondylitis: Reduce your risk of falling

During the early stages of ankylosing spondylitis, a person's bones may thin, weakening spinal bones, called vertebrae, and increasing the risk of spinal fractures. These fractures also are called vertebral fractures. Some research suggests that in those who have ankylosing spondylitis, many spinal fractures are caused by injuries from slips and falls — significantly more than in people who don't have ankylosing spondylitis.

Vertebral fractures can put pressure on and possibly injure the spinal cord and the nerves that pass through the spine. So, it's important to take steps to reduce your risk of falling. Take a step in the right direction with these lifestyle tips.

  • Get regular hearing and vision checks. If your hearing and vision are impaired, you may not be able to keep your balance or see things in your path.
  • Have regular physical exams. Some medical conditions can affect balance, sensations and how you move. During an exam, your health care provider can check you for these problems and suggest exercises, a walking aid or physical therapy.
  • Eat well. A healthy body and healthy bones are important. Plan ahead to eat healthy meals. Learn more about eating enough protein, drinking healthy liquids, and adding calcium and vitamin D to your daily diet. Calcium is important for strong bones. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium.
  • Ask about your medicines. Some drugs or combinations of medicines may affect your balance and coordination. Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about any medicines and dietary supplements you take. Be careful about how you walk and move after you start a new medication that can affect your balance.
  • Avoid alcohol. Using even a small amount of alcohol can contribute to falls. This is especially true if your balance and reflexes are impaired.
  • Get up slowly. Even a small drop in blood pressure can make you feel lightheaded or dizzy if you stand up too quickly. To avoid this feeling, stand up slowly. When getting out of bed, sit up for a few moments before you stand.
  • Wear the right clothes and shoes. Choose clothing, especially sleepwear, that's short enough so that it doesn't cause you to trip. Wear sturdy, low-heeled shoes with non-slip materials inside and on the soles.
  • Exercise. Exercise can make you stronger. It can improve your muscle tone, strength and coordination. These may help you prevent falls. Supervised exercise programs or physical therapy may be particularly helpful. Before you start any exercise program, ask your health care provider which activities are OK for you to do.

There also are changes you can make at home — such as good lighting and reduced clutter — to minimize your risk of falling. Ask your health care provider about getting a home safety check if you have a risk of falling. By taking some of these precautions and staying strong, you reduce your risk of both falling and fractures.

March 01, 2023 See more In-depth