Manage Ankylosing Spondylitis With Physiotherapy, Live Pain-Free

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of chronic inflammatory arthritis that affects the spine and other joints. It can cause significant pain and stiffness, leading to difficulty in daily activities. Here are ways to manage ankylosing spondylitis to live pain-free.

By URLife Team
10 Feb 2023

Although ankylosing spondylitis condition is less well-known compared to other types of arthritis, it affects millions of people worldwide. This inflammatory disease can make the spine less flexible, impair breathing and cause a hunched posture.

In this beginner's guide, we'll explore how ankylosing spondylitis affects the body and who is more prone to developing this condition. Whether you are a patient or a caregiver, this guide will give you a better understanding of this debilitating condition and the steps you can take to manage it.


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Risk Factors For Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic condition that affects the spine and can lead to a fusion of the bones in the back. This can make individuals more prone to fractures and nerve damage. It is essential that a doctor is aware of this condition in case of an accident or fall.

If there is new pain or weakness in the spine, it should be reported to a doctor immediately. Additionally, some individuals with ankylosing spondylitis may develop osteoporosis, which causes bones to become more fragile and prone to fractures.

Individuals with ankylosing spondylitis are also at a slightly increased risk of heart attack or stroke but this can be reduced by taking anti-inflammatory drugs, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, and exercising regularly. If the rib cage is damaged by ankylosing spondylitis, the top of the lungs may become scarred in rare situations.


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Symptoms Of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that primarily targets the spine and its surrounding joints. It starts with lower back and hip pain and stiffness, especially in the morning and after periods of rest. Neck pain and fatigue are also common among those with ankylosing spondylitis. Over time, symptoms may change unpredictably, getting worse, better, or disappearing.

The areas most commonly affected by ankylosing spondylitis are:

1. The Sacroiliac Joint: This joint connects the spine to the pelvis and is known as the sacroiliac joint. It is a common site of pain and stiffness among individuals with ankylosing spondylitis.

2. The Lower Back Vertebrae: The vertebrae are the bones that make up the spine, and ankylosing spondylitis can cause inflammation and damage to these bones, leading to pain and stiffness.

3. Tendon And Ligament Attachment Sites: Ankylosing spondylitis can cause inflammation and damage to the tendons and ligaments that attach to the bones, particularly in the spine. However, in some cases, this inflammation and damage can occur along the back of the heel as well.

4. The Chest Cartilage: Ankylosing spondylitis can also cause inflammation and damage to the cartilage between the breastbone and the ribs, which can lead to pain and stiffness in the chest area.

5. The Hip And Shoulder Joints: Although less common, ankylosing spondylitis can also affect the hip and shoulder joints, leading to pain and stiffness in these areas as well.


It's worth noting that the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis can vary widely from person to person, and not all people with the condition will experience all of these symptoms. It's important to consult with a doctor if you suspect you may have ankylosing spondylitis. A proper diagnosis and treatment plan can help manage symptoms and prevent complications.


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When To See A Doctor

Are you experiencing a nagging pain in your lower back or buttocks that seems to have crept up on you slowly? Is it worse in the morning or wakes you up in the middle of the night? If so, it may be time to seek medical attention. Especially, if you notice that this pain improves with exercise but worsens with rest.

On the other hand, if you've recently been dealing with a painful red eye, severe light sensitivity, or blurred vision, don't wait, see an eye specialist immediately! These symptoms could be a sign of something more serious and should be looked at by a medical professional as soon as possible. Don't let pain or discomfort linger, take charge of your health and get the answers you need.


Role of Physiotherapy

Physiotherapy is an important aspect of the treatment plan for individuals with ankylosing spondylitis (AS). The goal of physiotherapy in AS is to improve physical function, alleviate pain and maintain mobility. Physiotherapy can also help individuals with AS to prevent further damage to the spine and joints and maintain overall physical fitness.

The role of physiotherapy in AS can be divided into three main stages:


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Assessment And Diagnosis

A physiotherapist will conduct a thorough assessment to determine the extent of the problem, including the range of motion, posture, and muscle strength. Based on the results of the assessment, the physiotherapist will create a customised treatment plan.


Exercise And Physical Activity

Exercise is a crucial component of physiotherapy in AS. Physiotherapists will work with individuals to develop a safe and effective exercise program, focusing on maintaining flexibility and strength, as well as improving posture. The physiotherapist may also teach individuals with AS how to perform specific exercises to target affected areas, such as the back, hips, and knees. In addition, the physiotherapist may also advise individuals with AS to incorporate low-impact activities such as yoga, swimming or cycling into their routine to help maintain overall physical fitness.


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Pain Management

The first goal of physiotherapy in AS is to relieve pain. The physiotherapist may use manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilisation and soft tissue massage to alleviate pain and improve joint mobility. In addition, the physiotherapist may also teach individuals with AS to use heat or ice therapy, and recommend over-the-counter pain medications or prescription pain medications to help manage pain.

The physiotherapist may also recommend the use of assistive devices such as splints or braces to help support affected joints. In addition, the physiotherapist may teach individuals to use proper body mechanics to reduce stress on affected joints.

In severe cases of AS, the spinal column may fuse, leading to a loss of mobility in the affected area. In these cases, physiotherapy may focus on maintaining flexibility and mobility in other joints, as well as working on postural control and balance.

Physiotherapy can also help individuals with AS to manage the psychological impact of the condition. Many individuals with AS experience depression, anxiety, and feelings of isolation. Physiotherapists can provide emotional support, as well as refer individuals to other healthcare professionals, such as psychologists, for further support.

Individuals with AS need to work closely with their physiotherapist to develop a safe and effective treatment plan, and to incorporate physiotherapy into their overall treatment plan for the best possible outcome.


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Managing Work With Ankylosing Spondylitis

Managing work with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) can seem daunting, but with the right approach, you can thrive in your career. Here are some tips:

1. Ask for Accommodations: Partner with your employer to find solutions that work for both of you. Request flexible hours, ergonomic equipment, and time off for medical appointments.

2. Master Your Posture: Good posture can make a huge difference in reducing pain and fatigue. Invest in supportive devices, like back braces, to stay comfortable.

3. Get Moving: Regular exercise is key to improving mobility and reducing pain and stiffness. Incorporate stretching and strengthening exercises into your routine to keep your body moving.

4. Take Control of Medications: Take your medications as prescribed.

5. Build a Support Network: Maintaining open communication with your employer and co-workers can ensure you have the support you need to succeed.

6. Manage Stress: Take control of stress by incorporating stress-management techniques, such as meditation, exercise, or deep breathing, into your routine.

7. Plan Ahead: Anticipate days when symptoms may be more severe and have a backup plan in place.

With the right approach and support, you can thrive in your career even with ankylosing spondylitis. Work with your healthcare team, employer, and support system to find the best strategies for you.


Understanding ankylosing spondylitis can be a challenge for those newly diagnosed. However, with the right information and resources, it is possible to manage the symptoms of this autoimmune disease and live a fulfilling life. It is important to seek out medical advice from your healthcare provider and also connect with other people who suffer from ankylosing spondylitis for support. By working together, you can learn how to cope and find ways to reduce the discomfort associated with this condition.


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