Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that affects the spine and large joints of the body. The condition causes inflammation of the spinal joints leading to pain and stiffness in the joints. The treatment for ankylosing spondylitis focuses on taking medications and therapies that work to prevent the condition from worsening over a period of time. These therapies and medications also help in preserving the joints’ range of motion and flexibility. However, between your day-to-day commitments, work, appointments, family and friends, and a million other things, it becomes easy to fall into the trap of neglecting your condition and not taking care of yourself. Self-care is essential if you want to manage the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. Here are some tips to make life easier at home if you have ankylosing spondylitis.
Managing Ankylosing Spondylitis: Tips To Make Life Easier At Home If You Have Ankylosing Spondylitis
Following an Anti-inflammatory Diet
When you suffer from ankylosing spondylitis, there is inflammation present within your body, especially at the spinal joints. Many medical experts recommend that you consume an anti-inflammatory diet or even a Mediterranean diet for dealing with the symptoms of your condition and also for maintaining your overall health.(1)
When you have ankylosing spondylitis, you will find relief in your symptoms when you eat anti-inflammatory foods. An anti-inflammatory diet is made up of plant-based foods, including fresh fruits and vegetables and moderate amounts of lentils and grains as well. An anti-inflammatory diet is also known to focus on eating more seafood as compared to meat and dairy. A Mediterranean diet is also helpful in inflammatory conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis. A Mediterranean diet also includes a lot of heart-friendly olive oils.
So if you have ankylosing spondylitis, you should seriously think about changing your diet to help alleviate your symptoms. At the same time, it is vital that you avoid inflammatory foods such as trans fats, sugar, processed foods, red meat, and other fast food items.
Exercising regularly is not only necessary for patients of ankylosing spondylitis, but it is absolutely key for your overall health and lifestyle. In spite of the stiffness and pain you experience, it is still essential that you get some exercise every day. This is because the regular movement of your joints will help in maintaining flexibility while also reducing pain and stiffness. Even exercising for just 5 to 10 minutes a day at a time will help greatly.(2)
Your doctor or occupational therapist or physical therapist might even prescribe certain specific exercises that will be designed based upon your symptoms and their severity.
If you want to exercise at home, then you should focus on doing exercises that are low-impact, including swimming and walking. Aquatic exercises or spa exercises are actually highly recommended for people who have ankylosing spondylitis.(3) Aquatic exercises help in increasing the range of motion in your joints, without having to bear weight. When you perform these exercises in warm water, it also helps increase the blood flow throughout the body, thus reducing inflammation.
You can also consider doing exercises that help improve your flexibility, such as yoga and tai chi. Regularly exercising is vital if your doctor has recommended that you need to lose weight as well in order to improve your overall condition.
Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep should not be considered a luxury – but instead, it is a necessity and a must for everyone, regardless of your health. Sleep is a very important part of your health, and when you sleep deprived, it increases the occurrence of inflammation, stiffness, worsens your fatigue, and also increases pain in the body. Lack of sleep can also cause you to lose interest in exercising, make poor eating choices, and also enhance your stress levels.
According to the US-based Centers for Disease Control (CDC), a healthy adult should be getting at least seven hours of sleep per night.(4) Additionally, if you are over the age of 60, then you need to get seven to nine hours of sleep every night.
If you find that your present sleeping pattern is falling short of this many hours, then you should consider going to bed at an earlier time every night until you reach the recommended hours of sleep.
Ankylosing spondylitis is likely to leave you feeling overly tired even in the middle of the day, especially during a flare-up, when you are experiencing pain and stiffness. While it is highly tempting to take a nap during those times, it is best to try and avoid napping in the daytime. This will completely throw off your sleeping schedule in the night, causing you to stay awake and experience disrupted sleep.
Avoid Smoking and Drinking
People who have ankylosing spondylitis should avoid having alcohol as it is associated with higher levels of inflammation in the body. Smoking also presents many challenges for those who have this condition. As the disease progresses, you are likely to develop weaker ribs, which has an effect on your breathing. If on top of this, you are a smoker as well, then your breathing difficulties will only be aggravated. Smoking is also a known trigger for inflammation.
If you are having trouble quitting drinking and smoking, then you should consult your doctor who will provide you with remedies on how to quit. You will also notice an improvement in the quality of your life once you quit smoking and drinking. This will also decrease the progression of ankylosing spondylitis.(5)
Reduce your Stress Levels
When you suffer from ankylosing spondylitis, high levels of stress will only make your symptoms worse. Stress is also a known trigger for inflammation.
Research is done by the Second Military Medical University in Shanghai, China has shown that prolonged levels of stress and inflammation can increase the likelihood of developing chronic illnesses later in life.(6) Additionally, inflammation is also a precursor to ankylosing spondylitis; it is all the more vital that you lower your stress.(7)
While, of course, it’s not possible to forget about your responsibilities and commitments, you should nevertheless strive to find ways in which you can decrease stress a little bit at a time each day. Some simple ways in which you can reduce stress include:
- Go for a walk outside
- Practice yoga
- Meditate daily for at least 5 to 10 minutes
- Spend time in nature
- Take a long bath or a warm bubble bath
- Read a book
- Start delegating chores and assignments to family, friends, and colleagues
One of the most important parts of self-care in ankylosing spondylitis is that you keep up with your treatment plan and follow it diligently.
Make sure that you keep all your scheduled appointments, take your medications as prescribed, and also follow up with your doctor as per schedule. If you notice your ankylosing spondylitis symptoms getting worse or not improving with treatment, then you should call your doctor.
The tips mentioned above are definitely important, but you should also keep following your doctor’s prescribed care plan in order to lead a better quality of life.
- Oliviero, F., Spinella, P., Fiocco, U., Ramonda, R., Sfriso, P. and Punzi, L., 2015. How the Mediterranean diet and some of its components modulate inflammatory pathways in arthritis. Swiss medical weekly, 145(4546).
- Uhrin, Z., Kuzis, S. and Ward, M.M., 2000. Exercise and changes in health status in patients with ankylosing spondylitis. Archives of internal medicine, 160(19), pp.2969-2975.
Van Tubergen, A., Landewé, R., Van Der Heijde, D., Hidding, A., Wolter, N., Asscher, M., Falkenbach, A., Genth, E., Thè, H.G. and van der Linden, S., 2001. Combined spa–exercise therapy is effective in patients with ankylosing spondylitis: a randomized controlled trial. Arthritis Care & Research: Official Journal of the American College of Rheumatology, 45(5), pp.430-438.
- Cdc.gov. (2019). CDC – How Much Sleep Do I Need? – Sleep and Sleep Disorders. [online] Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html [Accessed 20 Jun. 2019].
- Bodur, H., Ataman, Ş., Rezvani, A., Buğdaycı, D.S., Çevik, R., Birtane, M., Akıncı, A., Altay, Z., Günaydın, R., Yener, M. and Koçyiğit, H., 2011. Quality of life and related variables in patients with ankylosing spondylitis. Quality of Life Research, 20(4), pp.543-549.
- Liu, Y.Z., Wang, Y.X. and Jiang, C.L., 2017. Inflammation: the common pathway of stress-related diseases. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11, p.316.
- Zochling, J., Bohl-Bühler, M.H., Baraliakos, X., Feldtkeller, E. and Braun, J., 2006. Infection and work stress are potential triggers of ankylosing spondylitis. Clinical rheumatology, 25(5), pp.660-666.
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