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Ankylosing Spondylitis

Living With Ankylosing Spondylitis

Last updated on:
16/03/2012

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Ankylosing spondylitis affects different people in different ways.

  • The pain and stiffness will come and go. It will sometimes disappear completely for a while.
  • In the most severe cases, the entire spine can become stiff and bent, so that the person cannot look at the horizon. This condition is called kyphosis.
  • People with mild disease will never develop this stoop, but it is hard to make early predictions about the severity of the disease in each person.

How To Information:

Careful attention to posture and exercise, however, works against the tendency to stoop. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Sleep on a mattress that is firm but not hard. Use a thin pillow so that the neck is not bent forward. Sleep on the back or the stomach with the spine straight.
  • Sit in a chair that has a firm seat and an upright firm back. The depth of the seat and the height of the chair should allow sitting with the knees and the hips at right angles.
  • Do not sit or lie still for long periods. Stretch your back. Sit tall. Get up and walk around.
  • Avoid corsets and back supports. Anything that supports the back will allow the muscles to become weak, and the back will then become more prone to pain and stiffness.
  • A hot bath or shower in the morning may help reduce pain and stiffness. An ice pack or bag of frozen peas wrapped in a towel can be applied to particularly inflamed areas to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Don't smoke cigarettes. Ankylosing spondylitis can reduce the capacity of the lungs, and smoking can increase the risk of infection and scarring.
  • Keep your weight under control.Remember that when you run or jump, every pound of weight translates into four to eight pounds of pressure on the joints.
  • An active sex life is possible with ankylosing spondylitis. Open communication between partners is essential in overcoming any difficulties caused by pain or limited mobility. Changes in position may be necessary, and planning may help to avoid fatigue.
  • A small cushion behind the back or under the buttocks can help maintain good posture when driving a car. Special wide-angle mirrors are available for those who have limited mobility in the neck. If the drive is extended, make frequent rest stops to move around and limber up.
  • Develop a support network. People who develop a lifelong illness, such as ankylosing spondylitis, may have periods of sadness or anger. It is important to enlist the support of family and friends. A counselor may sometimes be needed to help solve the problems that arise in coping with the disease. It may also help to get to know other people who are coping with ankylosing spondylitis.

Need To Know:

Q: Will I physically be able to maintain a pregnancy if I have ankylosing spondylitis?

A: Unless the condition is very severe, pregnancy is not usually a problem for women with ankylosing spondylitis. However, pregnant women should not take anti-inflammatory drugs.

The Outlook

Most people with ankylosing spondylitis can look forward to productive lives with just a few adjustments for coping with the disease. In fact, living an active life is one of the best ways to treat ankylosing spondylitis.

With exercise and activity, as well as proper medical management, symptoms can be relieved and controlled, and normal life activities can be continued.

 
 

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.