Exercises for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Sep 12, 2013
Tagged with: Exercises for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of chronic arthritis of the spine and the pelvic sacroiliac joints. The inflammation of the vertebrae (spondylitis) can eventually lead to the fusion of the vertebrae, which is called ankylosis. This type of chronic arthritis affects the bones, muscles and ligaments, and is extremely painful.

Some people with ankylosing spondylitis have inflammation and pain in other parts of the body as well, such as the hips, shoulders, ribs, knees and feet.  Occasionally, the areas where the tendons and ligaments attach to the bones are affected, and symptoms can develop in the heart, lungs, bowel, and even the eyes as well.

One-out-of-ten ankylosing spondylitis patients develop long-term and severe disabilities.  The condition is three times more common in males than females, and some rheumatologists say that women with AS (ankylosing spondylitis) go undiagnosed because their symptoms are so much less severe. Symptoms of AS usually occur before the age of 35, and very rarely when the person is elderly.


AS and Fitness

Exercise is the key with spondylitis program, but fitting it into your daily routine can be challenging. Exercise should be a main priority each day if you suffer from AS.  Even a 5-minute walk on your lunch break will suffice, and being diligent with fitness can afford you a lot of relief and additional benefits. Specifically, a spondylitis exercise program will help you maintain good flexibility, posture and less pain. Good posture and increased mobility can even be regained with proper exercise, and many people with spondylitis say they feel much better after some daily activity.

Those who employ a daily exercise program for their AS condition should focus on proper posture and flexibility.  These are key areas when considering an AS fitness regimen. Before beginning any new exercise program, consult a physical therapist or doctor regarding your limitations and your abilities. They’ll inform you of these limitations, as well as suggest modified exercises to suit your specific requirements.


Proper Form For AS Exercising

As mentioned, posture is everything with regard to AS exercises. Practicing good posture techniques impacts the way you look and feel, and those with spondylitis often are painfully aware of the strains imposed by gravity.  Pain occurs because those with AS have a tendency to bend over when they experience pain in the spine.  Unfortunately, this further increases the amount of strain on the spine.

Bone fusion does not occur in everyone with spondylitis, but fusing in a non-upright position is a possibility. You can influence the pattern of fusion through good postural habits, and this can be achieved by holding your head in a balanced manner over the trunk in a sitting or standing position. The chin should be horizontal and parallel to the floor, drawn back slightly and centered. Try to stand, walk and sit in an erect position as often as you are able.

Another way to establish good posture is to stand against a wall, with your heals four inches away from the wall, and your shoulders and bottom against the wall. Hold this position for a few seconds and repeat. Monitor your spine alignment and log in the changes as you continue this exercise over the course of a few weeks.

A third exercise is called “prone lying”, where you lie face down on a firm surface, and hold that position for a few minutes. It helps to do this posture training after a warm bath or shower or whenever the body is warmed up. The head may be positioned directly downward, resting on the hands, turned to the left or right, or alternated during the course of a few minutes.


When to Exercise

Exercise at a time of day that is convenient and comfortable.  If you are stiff in the morning, delay your workout until your body has relaxed a little bit throughout the day, perhaps at midday. You can also split up your exercises during the day. For example, do your neck stretches in the morning, and then your lying down exercises later.  Perhaps you can continue your deep breathing for chest expansion in the evening.

Most importantly, don’t skip.  Do your exercises daily, and properly warm up beforehand.  Also, focus on the areas that need the most exercise, whether it be strengthening or stretching. Exercise in a comfortable area, on a mat or a carpeted floor. A mat provides comfort and protection by cushioning your spine, and you can use a firm bed if you can’t get onto or off of the floor easily.

It’s normal to feel some discomfort or pain when you first start an exercise program, but don’t overdo it. Approach any new fitness plan with ease, beginning with low repetitions regardless of your ability to do more. If you experience a lot of pain after exercising, reduce your intensity the next time you exercise.  And above all, always pay attention to proper form and always listen to your body.




Author: David Novak

  • Ellen

    Nice post! One of my friend is suffering from the same problem so I think this post would be very useful for him. Thanks a lot for this, I am so glad that I found this article. It’s been really great to be here.

  • bobl07

    Hi Ellen,

    Please take a look at the the NCHPAD website if needing information in this area. http://www.nchpad.org