Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis

June 5, 2023

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of inflammatory arthritis that mainly affects the spine.  It can cause the ligaments, tendons, and other soft tissue attachments of the spine to swell.  Over time, this can lead to increased bone formation and the possible fusing of the spine in a fixed position.  This can create a forward-stooped posture.  Ankylosing spondylitis can result in a loss of flexibility and your ability to function in most daily tasks. 

 Regular exercise as little as even 5-10 minutes a day can provide relief.  Improving your flexibility and strengthening of the muscles that support the spine are important.  I have included 5 of my favorite exercises from for treating the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis.   Although there is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, these exercises along with medication have been shown to be quite effective in managing the condition and slowing its progression.

Posture is Key

Your mother was right when she told you to stand up straight.  Good posture impacts the way a person with ankylosing spondylitis looks and feels.  Those with this condition often feel the strains that gravity can impose on the body and this results in a cycle of pain and poor posture.  In an effort to lessen the stress on the spine, those with ankylosing spondylitis will begin to bend forward when experiencing back pain.  However, this has the opposite effect of actually increasing the strain on the spine and makes the condition worse.  Not all people suffering from spondylitis will fuse, but fusing in a non-upright position is a concern.

Stand Tall Exercise: It is preferable to perform this exercise in front of a mirror, but it can be performed anywhere you have access to a wall or door.  Stand against the wall and place your feet four inches away from the wall.   Your buttocks and shoulders should be as close to the wall as possible without straining.  Hold this position for 5 seconds, relax, and repeat 10 repetitions.  You can gauge your progress by measuring the distance from the back of the head to the wall.

Prone Lying Posture: This is often the best exercise for helping to maintain an upright posture.  You should do this exercise on a firm surface.  If your bed is too soft, you may need to place a mat on the floor.  Lie face down for 15-20 minutes.  If you are unable to tolerate this position, use a pillow under your chest or hips and place your forehead on a rolled up towel.  You may have to start slowly at first with only 1-2 minutes and build up to 15-20 minutes over time.  Performing this exercise after a warm bath or shower can also help.

Deep Breathing: Those with ankylosing spondylitis should work on a deep breathing program to increase and maintain your lung capacity.  This also helps keep your rib cage flexible.  Sit or lie down and observe your normal breathing.  Take a slow, deep breath by breathing in through the nose and feel the air enter the lungs and allow your chest to expand fully.  Then slowly exhale through your mouth.  Place your hand on your chest to feel the rise and fall as you breathe deeply.  Practice this in a quiet room for 5-10 minutes a day.

Swimming: The inflammation that occurs with ankylosing spondylitis can limit chest expansion and compromise your ability to breathe.  Swimming is a great way to increase flexibility in your spine without the impact from land based exercise and provides good cardiovascular work to improve breathing.  The breaststroke can be of particular benefit to also improve chest expansion. Click here for the link to local pools in the Council Bluffs area.

Yoga: Yoga has been shown to be quite effective in managing pain and increasing flexibility.  It can help reduce
stress and tension and allow for a more restful sleep.  If you are new to yoga, find a class for beginners and stick with the gentle poses.  Finding a yoga instructor who is familiar with modifications to the traditional yoga poses and one who is knowledgeable in your condition is important. 

There is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, but controlling the inflammation associated with the condition is helpful.   Additional therapies such as massage, laser treatments, and weight loss programs can also be beneficial.  Massage on a regular basis if done in a gentle manner can help relieve the tension in the muscles, decrease pain, and promote increased circulation to the area.  Laser therapy has been shown to decrease pain, inflammation, and accelerate the healing of damaged tissue.  A medically supervised weight loss program, such as Ideal Protein, can help keep your body weight in check which will decrease the stress on the spine.  The Ideal Protein Weight Loss Method also decreases the acidity levels in the body which helps reduce overall body inflammation.  If you have tried these 5 simple exercises, but still are experiencing pain, stiffness, and weakness associated with ankylosing spondylitis, call us at 1-800-930-8803.  We are experts in helping those with pain, injury, or weakness.


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