Ankylosing spondylitis, also known as Bechterew’s disease, is a form of inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and the large joints of the body. The condition is more commonly seen in men when compared to women and it generally begins during early adulthood. The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis include reduced flexibility or movement of the spine, which results in a sort of hunched-forward posture. This causes a lot of pain in the back and the joints. Treatment for ankylosing spondylitis generally includes medication and physiotherapy, and in some severe and rare cases, it might involve surgery as well. The pain of ankylosing spondylitis is generally described by patients as being sharp, shooting and sometimes followed with a burning sensation. Patients suffering from this ankylosing spondylitis also experience stiffness that is an uncomfortable symptom. However, no matter the type of pain you experience when you suffer from ankylosing spondylitis, there are many ways in which you can deal with your ankylosing spondylitis pain and also keep it under control. Some of the methods of dealing with ankylosing spondylitis are described here.
3 Effective Ways to Deal with Ankylosing Spondylitis Pain
There are several over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications that are available for getting relief from the pain and stiffness of ankylosing spondylitis (AS). As this condition is primarily an inflammatory condition, most often doctors prescribe non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (brand names Advil and Motrin IB) and naproxen (brand name Aleve). Different types of NSAIDs are available both through prescription and over the counter as well.
However, in some cases, it is possible that NSAIDs do not provide any relief for the ankylosing spondylitis pain, or they may have negative side effects such as gastrointestinal bleeding. In this scenario, your doctor will prescribe a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker. TNF blockers are drugs that inhibit or block a protein in the body that causes inflammation. Some examples of TNF blockers include:
- Humira (adalimumab)
- Remicade (infliximab)
- Enbrel (etanercept)
Another type of medication that can be used for battling ankylosing spondylitis inflammation are the IL-17 inhibitors. IL-17, known as interleukin-17, is a cytokine. When there is too much of IL-17 in your body, it leads to chronic inflammation. IL-17 inhibitors are drugs that block the excess production of this substance in the body. As of today, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved one IL-17 inhibitor known as secukinumab, sold under the brand name Cosentyx, for the treatment of ankylosing spondylitis.
In cases of severe ankylosing spondylitis pain, doctors may prescribe some narcotic painkillers if you don’t get any relief from the above-mentioned medications.
Exercise and Stretching Can Be Effective IN Helping You Deal With Ankylosing Spondylitis Pain
Most experts agree that staying active is one of the most important things that can help you better deal with your ankylosing spondylitis pain. This is why incorporating some form of low-impact exercises such as yoga, swimming, or even Pilates helps reduce your pain and stiffness by keeping the joints of the body fluid. Maintaining a healthy weight is also good for your health as it puts lesser stress on your joints and bones.
There are many strength training exercises and range-of-motion exercises that are known to help you deal with the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. Both these types of exercises help to strengths the joints and also helps them become more flexible, thus providing some relief to people having ankylosing spondylitis. In order to understand how to do these exercises better, it is recommended that you consult a physical therapist so that you are able to learn these exercises safely and correctly and also to ensure that your ankylosing spondylitis pain gets reduced.
Stretching is also an important way of relieving the stiffness in your muscles. Stretching will also help to elongate your muscles while keeping them flexible as well. Stretching is also important for AS sufferers as it keeps the spine aligned and also helps improve the posture. If you have been sleeping, then after getting up it is a good idea to stretch first before you begin your daily activities. Stretching after sitting for a long time is also recommended for lesser pain and a better range of motion in the joints in case of ankylosing spondylitis.
Heat and Cold Therapy
Another effective way of dealing with ankylosing spondylitis pain is by using both heat and cold therapy to relieve the symptoms. This sort of therapy works because the heat relieves the stiffness of the joints and also soothes the tired and strained muscles, while the cold helps reduce the blood flow and lowers the inflammation, which helps relieve the ankylosing spondylitis pain. Cold also helps to calm the nerve endings and alleviates the pain of ankylosing spondylitis. A warm bath or applying a heating pad or a hot water bottle to the affected or painful area will help relax muscles and help you deal with the pain of ankylosing spondylitis. For applying cold therapy in ankylosing spondylitis, you can either use a gel cold pack or even a frozen bag of vegetables from your freezer works equally well. However, keep in mind that you should not use heat or cold therapy for more than 20-30 minutes at one time.
There is no doubt that dealing with chronic AS pain can cause frustration and make you feel helpless. The most important factor while dealing with pain from ankylosing spondylitis is that you need to manage your pain and keep it under control. While medications may work for some people, lifestyle changes and natural remedies may benefit others. If you feel that your pain is getting difficult to bear, then consulting your doctor is the best recommendation.
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