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Optimizing Exercise for Ankylosing Spondylitis : Essential Dos and Don’ts

The discomforting condition of Ankylosing spondylitis makes one suffer from severe pain and stiffness. Physical activity or exercise is a pillar for Ankylosing spondylitis treatment. People with this condition who do not exercise experience more pain and fatigue because of a lack of movement that causes reduced range of motion, muscle weakness, and stiffness.(1)  So, being active will help you if you are dealing with Ankylosing spondylitis. Exercise will also help strengthen your spine and keep the strain off of the joints of the spine. So, exercising with Ankylosing spondylitis is a must. However, we should know some of the exercise Dos and Don’ts for Ankylosing spondylitis, which can be learned from the following array of the article.

What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is a discomforting condition, which causes pain and stiffness. Prolonged pain and stiffness can affect one’s daily activities and hinder their quality of life. Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that causes chronic inflammation of the spine and results in pain and stiffness. Some patients with Ankylosing spondylitis have chronic back pain, hip pain, and stiffness. In some patients, the spine might become rigid because of the new bone formations, which ultimately fuse vertebral segments. This condition is known as ankylosis.

Exercises for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Exercise is good for everyone. It makes us stronger, more flexible, and fit. Even people with ankylosing spondylitis require exercise, and in fact, the Spondylitis Association of America (SAA) states that exercise is a critical part of the treatment approach for spondyloarthritis, including ankylosing spondylitis.(2) Exercise is essential for patients with Ankylosing spondylitis because it helps to ease pain, tackle muscle imbalances, improve posture, and make it easier to enhance their overall quality of life.

There are multiple effective exercise options, so you don’t have to worry about your workout routine. However, it is vital to ensure that you are exercising properly. So, let us learn about some general exercise dos and don’ts for Ankylosing spondylitis.

Exercise Do’s for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Make Time to Exercise Regularly

One of the most important things to note if you have ankylosing spondylitis is that you try to make time and exercise regularly because it is only through a consistent exercise that you build and maintain strength, flexibility, and overall fitness. You should find time every day and schedule your exercise time just like you would schedule a meeting or an appointment at your work. If you exercise even for 20 minutes a day, you can start noticing the benefits.

Do Work With a Physical Therapist

A skilled and experienced physical therapist can help you develop an exercise routine tailored to your requirements. So consult with your doctor for a recommendation and work with a physical therapist.

Do Focus on Good Posture

Another thing that must be kept in mind while exercising with ankylosing spondylitis is to focus on good posture. Ankylosing spondylitis can negatively impact our balance and posture.(3) Because ankylosing spondylitis mainly affects the spine, maintaining good posture while exercising is highly essential.

Practice standing straight in front of the mirror and it can help improve posture. Additionally, talk to your physical therapist who will recommend some effective posture exercises.

Do Stick With Your Exercise Program

“Consistency is the key.” You get benefits from an exercise program if you keep doing it consistently or if you stick with your exercise program.(2) Find exercises and physical activities you enjoy, and involve your friends or family. Walking could also help if done regularly. Simply work with your physical therapist or doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Do Exercise In Water

Many patients with ankylosing spondylitis enjoy exercising in water. Water workouts like swimming or water aerobics can be helpful if you have ankylosing spondylitis. Just be sure not to push yourself beyond limits.

Exercise Don’ts for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Don’t Just Do One Form Of Exercise

Do not just perform one form of exercise. Create an exercise program that combines strengthening and stretching exercises. Strengthening exercises help in building the muscles that support your joints, while flexibility and movement improve with stretching exercises. Stretching exercises also help in reducing stiffness. Apart from strengthening and stretching exercises, try adding cardiovascular exercises too.

Don’t Do Movements That Can Cause Pain

Do not do any exercise or movement that requires you to twist your spine too much or that puts extra stress on your back and spine since this can cause serious problems. Additionally, consider high-impact exercises like running, and twisting sports like tennis, racquetball, and squash. These exercises or sports can increase pain in the spine, knees, and hips.

Don’t Overdo

Start slowly, particularly if you are experiencing a flare or if you are new to exercising. Do not overdo it, and if you experience pain or stiffness, ease off your activities. If you are feeling okay, increase the frequency or intensity of your exercise.

What are Some Common Exercises for Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Exercise is a great thing that can be done to help manage symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. It can reduce pain and keep you more flexible and mobile. Exercise also seems to help with symptoms related to stiffness, posture, fatigue, and breathing capacity. So, it’s a great idea to look for various ways to work exercise into your daily routine, especially if you are struggling with ankylosing spondylitis.

Some of the main types of exercise that are suggested for patients with ankylosing spondylitis include:

  • Stretching and range of movements.
  • Strengthening or muscle-building exercises
  • Cardio exercises
  • Balance exercises

Combining all these kinds of activities into your exercise routine for at least 20 minutes a day will help in reducing symptoms like pain, stiffness, and even mood. Work with your doctor or physical therapist to set goals that help you. Water aerobics, yoga, pilates, Tai chi, and swimming are some activities that can help greatly.

According to a literature review published in the scientific journal ‘Holistic Nursing Practice”, it has been mentioned that yoga and tai chi are some effective ways to improve spinal flexibility and reduce low back pain.(4)

A study published in the “Annals of Neurosciences” examined the effects of a 14-day yoga intervention on the flexibility of spine in patients with ankylosing spondylitis. It was found that the heart rate and systolic blood pressure of participants were substantially better. Study participants also reported milder symptoms of pain and using less pain medication.(5)

Breathing Exercises

According to the Spondylitis Association of America, although breathing exercises might not cause a sweat, they are still important for maintaining flexibility in your rib joints to keep you breathing easily.(4) These exercises are a great way to begin and end your workout.

Final Words

If you are struggling with ankylosing spondylitis and looking for some of the best exercises to manage pain and stiffness, then ask your doctor or physical therapist and follow their instructions. Make sure not to begin any new activity with ankylosing spondylitis without consulting your doctor. Additionally, follow the above-mentioned exercise dos and don’ts for ankylosing spondylitis and keep yourself on the safer side.

References:

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Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 24, 2023

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