5 Best Exercises for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine and the large joints of the lower body, such as the hips and knees. It causes inflammation in the spine, which can lead to pain and stiffness in the lower back and hips. The pain can be severe and can be worse in the morning or after periods of inactivity. As the inflammation progresses, it can cause the bones of the spine to grow together and fuse, making movement difficult.

AS is painful, and chronic. It tends to start at the sacro-iliac joints (just above the buttocks) and spread up to the spine. It can affect the organs too. It can be very disabling and cause significant spinal deformity, although these severe cases are fairly uncommon and many people may have AS very mildly.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a progressive disease, meaning it can worsen over time. As the disease progresses, the joints and bones in the spine may fuse together, leading to a loss of flexibility and mobility. Other symptoms, such as pain and fatigue, may also worsen. In some cases, the disease can also affect other organs in the body, such as the heart, lungs, and eyes. Treatment options and lifestyle changes can help slow the progression of the disease and reduce symptoms.

Exercises typically focus on maintaining mobility to the spine, and preventing the forward rounding of the back.

Let’s look at our top five exercises for AS:

1. Back Extension Gentle: Lie on your front, and rest on your forearms. Your back will be gently arched. Hold this position. Start gently with this exercise as it can cause some stiffness when you first begin.

2. Superman: Lie on your front, and lift your opposite arm and leg, keeping them straight. Hold this position, and then relax. This exercise helps to arch your lower back (to create what is known as a lumbar lordosis) while strengthening the lower back and buttock muscles.

3. Sitting Extension: Support your neck by placing your hands interlocked behind your neck. Round your lower back slightly, to focus the movement to the upper back, and slowly bend backwards.

4. Lumbar Rotation Twist Stretch: Bend your knees, and keeping your feet flat on the floor, rotate your hips to one side creating a rotation through your lower back. Only go as far as feels comfortable, you do not need to get your knees to the floor. With straight arms, rotate to the opposite side at the same time. This is a strong lower back stretch suitable for more athletic people.

5. Figure of Eight Articulation: Place your hands behind your neck, and bring your elbows together. Now “draw” a figure of eight with your elbows (which will also move your back). This excellent mobility exercise will improve the mobility in your spine, act as a useful warm up before sport, and get you more flexible. Do not be alarmed if you hear a few pops and clicks coming from the spine.

Exercise is an essential component of ankylosing spondylitis treatment. It helps maintain spinal flexibility, reduces pain and stiffness, increases mobility, and enhances life quality. Regular physical activity should be individualised and include aerobic exercise such as swimming, strengthening, stretching, and relaxation exercises. Before beginning an exercise programme, it is essential to consult a doctor or physiotherapist.

If you are a therapist and like the exercises and information in this document, please go to www.rehabmypatient.com and sign up to this amazing exercise prescription software. If you are a patient and need some advice, treatment or a consultation, please go to www.surreyphysio.co.uk/bookonline. We provide virtual and face-to-face appointments with our expert team.

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You can find useful and additional information here: https://www.rehabmypatient.com/thoracic-spine/ankylosing-spondylitis