Ankylosing spondylitis treatment involves medications and therapies that help prevent your condition from getting worse over time. It also helps preserve flexibility and range of motion.
But between keeping up with your appointments, work, family, and other commitments, it’s easy to neglect taking care of yourself. Self-care is a crucial component of ankylosing spondylitis treatment.
Learn more about the best ways you can take care of yourself as you work through your ankylosing spondylitis symptoms and plan of care.
1. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise is key to any healthy lifestyle plan. Despite the pain and stiffness that you’re experiencing right now, getting some exercise is important.
Regular movement helps maintain flexibility and reduces stiffness and pain. Even a few short minutes at a time can help.
Your doctor, physical therapist, or occupational therapist may have specific exercise recommendations based on the severity of your symptoms.
If you’re looking for exercises to do at home, focus on workouts that are low-impact, such as walking and swimming. Aquatic exercise allows for increased range of motion in your joints, without the effect of weight bearing. When performed in warm water, it can also increase blood flow. This can help reduce inflammation.
Also, consider exercises that improve flexibility, such as tai chi and yoga. Regular workouts can be important if your doctor recommends losing weight to improve your condition.
2. Eat an anti-inflammatory diet
Many experts recommend an anti-inflammatory diet or a Mediterranean diet for overall health. Not only do anti-inflammatory diets decrease inflammation in the body, but they also reduce your risk for heart disease.
When it comes to ankylosing spondylitis, you’ll find that eating anti-inflammatory foods can improve your symptoms in the long-term.
An anti-inflammatory diet mainly consists of plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as moderate amounts of grains and lentils. This type of diet also emphasizes seafood over dairy and meat. Mediterranean diets also include a lot of heart-healthy olive oils.
If you’re thinking about transforming your diet to help reduce your symptoms, you should also avoid inflammatory foods. This includes sugar, trans fats, red meat, processed foods, and fast food items.
3. Make sleep a priority
Sleep is another important part of health. Inflammation can take place in a sleep-deprived body, making pain, stiffness, and fatigue worse. Plus, a lack of sleep can lead to reduced exercise, more stress, and poor eating choices.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least seven hoursTrusted Source of sleep per night for adults. If you’re over the age of 60, you may need seven to nine hours a night. If your current sleep pattern falls short of this amount, consider going to bed a bit earlier each night until you’ve hit your goal.
Ankylosing spondylitis can leave you feeling fatigued in the middle of the day, especially when you’re feeling stiff and in pain. While tempting, try to avoid daytime naps. These can throw off your sleeping schedule at night.
4. Stop drinking and smoking
Alcohol consumption isn’t advised for people with ankylosing spondylitis because it can lead to more inflammation.
Smoking also presents challenges for people with ankylosing spondylitis. As your condition progresses, you may develop weaker ribs, which can affect your breathing. If you smoke on top of this, your breathing difficulties may be even worse. Smoking also triggers inflammation.
Talk to your doctor about ways you can stop drinking and smoking. You’ll improve your quality of life while also decreasing ankylosing spondylitis progression.
5. Find ways to reduce stress
Stress doesn’t discriminate. When you have ankylosing spondylitis, stressors related to work, childcare, school, and other commitments can make your symptoms worse.
Stress can increase inflammation. ResearchTrusted Source shows that prolonged stress and inflammation may also lead to chronic illnesses later in life. Since inflammation is one of the precursors to ankylosing spondylitis, it’s even more important to reduce stress in your life.
While you can’t skip all your commitments and responsibilities, you can find ways to reduce stress every day. Even a few minutes a day can help.
Here are some simple ways you can help yourself de-stress:
- Meditate daily for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.
- Take up a yoga practice.
- Go for a walk outside.
- Spend time in nature.
- Read a book.
- Take a warm bubble bath.
- Delegate chores and assignments to family and friends.
Keeping up with your treatment plan is one of the best forms of self-care.
Make sure you don’t miss any of your scheduled appointments, take your medications as directed, and follow up with your doctor as recommended. You’ll also want to call your doctor if your symptoms get worse or don’t improve with treatment.
All of the above self-care tips are important, but remember to keep up with your care plan to lead a better quality of life.