5. Practice Good Posture to Keep Your Spine Flexible
Concentrate on the alignment of your spine to alleviate pain and prevent damage. As ankylosing spondylitis progresses, it may cause permanent flexion — or forward tilting — in your neck and back. Stretching your neck, upper back, and shoulders can help maintain flexibility. Try to stretch several times throughout the day for a few minutes at a time. Also, focus on stretching your neck and standing and sitting “tall,” keeping your chin centered and parallel to the floor, the SAA recommends. You can even protect yourself when you sleep: Stick to a thin, flat pillow (or no pillow) to prevent too much flexion in your neck.
6. Avoid Smoking to Help Reduce the Risk of Syndesmophytes
Don’t smoke, and be sure to also avoid exposure to secondhand smoke to help protect your joints. People with ankylosing spondylitis who develop syndesmophytes are more likely to have had a longer history of smoking than those who don’t, according to a study published in the October 2018 issue of the journal Arthritis Research and Therapy. Over time, people with syndesmophytes were three times more likely to experience progressive joint damage in the spine.
“Smoking accelerates bone demineralization and bone loss, worsening osteoporosis,” Goodman says. “It also increases inflammation and impedes the response to therapy.” In addition, people with ankylosing spondylitis are already at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and smoking worsens that risk, she notes.
7. Try Pilates to Ease Pain and Stiffness
Pilates is also recommended, as it can help strengthen your “core” muscles. This muscle-toning exercise plan can be a helpful complementary therapy to manage symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis. A review of existing research published in January 2018 in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies found that Pilates may help reduce pain and stiffness and lessen disability from arthritis-related conditions.