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Ankylosing Spondylitis Exercises

By Editorial Team (2)
January 31, 2022

Ankylosing spondylitis exercises may be something you’ve never thought of, and getting up and moving is probably the last thing you feel like doing if you’ve been diagnosed with this condition. But knowing more about your condition and how to manage your symptoms can lead to a healthier, happier life.

Ankylosing spondylitis is characterized by inflammation that causes swelling in the capsules of the joints, the ligaments, and the tendons that attach to your spine. Over time, this can lead to the formation of excess bone and even abnormal fusing of the bones of the spine. This form of arthritis can lead to stiffness and decreased flexibility. But there is good news! Ankylosing spondylitis exercises can help prevent this. As little as five to 10 minutes of regular ankylosing spondylitis exercises can help strengthen the muscles that support your neck and back and help maintain or increase your ability to move. Symptoms can also be relieved by practicing good posture techniques. You’ll not only look better, you’ll feel better too!

How: Ankylosing Spondylitis Exercise

Doing ankylosing spondylitis exercises on a mat or a carpeted floor is usually best. A mat cushions and protects your spine. You can purchase a mat at a sporting goods store or in the sporting goods section of most big box stores. Your bed may be used for ankylosing spondylitis exercises if it has a firm mattress and if you can’t get up and down from the floor easily. Many people find listening to music while they exercise helps them relax.

Spondylitis may cause discomfort when you first begin a program of ankylosing spondylitis exercises. Tolerable pain is normal, but people often tend to push themselves too hard at first. Don’t assume “pain is gain” and overdo it. Approach any new exercise routine with caution. Begin with a minimum number of repetitions, even if you think you are capable of more. If you experience severe pain following ankylosing spondylitis exercises, you most likely need to reduce the number of repetitions in your next session and also your intensity. Also, review the instructions to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly.

Posture ankylosing spondylitis exercises

Good posture will have a positive impact on the way you look and feel.

People who have spondylitis know the effect gravity has on their body! When you bend over due to pain, a cycle begins that leads to even more pain due to a strain on the spine caused by gravity, which leads to further bending of the spine.

Fusion of the spine does not happen to everyone with spondylitis, but bone fusion in a non-upright position is a possibility. You can help decrease your risk of fusion by developing good habits. These ankylosing spondylitis exercises will help you do that:

  • Think tall ankylosing spondylitis exercise: Try to sit, stand and walk “tall” all the time. Hold your head with your ears centered over your shoulders. Your chin should be parallel to the floor, centered and slightly drawn back.
  • Back against the wall ankylosing spondylitis exercise: Stand, back against the wall, with your heels about 4-inches away from the wall, looking in a full-length mirror to check your posture. Keep your shoulders and buttocks close to the wall or even lightly touching the wall if possible. Don’t strain; hold this position for five seconds, relax and repeat the ankylosing spondylitis exercise. Keep a record of your spine alignment (measure from the back of your head to the wall). Recording this measurement about once a month will help you keep track of changes. Report any changes to your physician.
  • Lying prone ankylosing spondylitis exercise: Lie face down on a mat, carpeted floor or on a firm mattress. Place a small folded towel under your forehead or a pillow under your chest if you can’t lie flat on your stomach. This is the best position to practice for maintaining an erect posture. At first, you may only be able to lie prone for a few minutes, so start slowly. Position your head to the right or left, directly downward or alternating over the course of about 20 minutes. It may be easier to try this ankylosing spondylitis exercise when your body is warm, after a hot shower or bath.

Other Ankylosing Spondylitis Exercise

  1. Stand with your buttocks and heels against a wall. Without tilting, push your head back towards the wall. Hold this position for the count of 5, then relax. Repeat this ankylosing spondylitis exercise 10 times.
  2. Stand in the middle of a room with your feet apart, hands on your hips. Without moving your feet or knees, rotate your waist to look behind you. Hold this position for the count of 5, then relax. Repeat, looking to the other side.
  3. Repeat this ankylosing spondylitis exercise 5 times for each side.
  4. Lie on your back on a firm surface, with your knees bent, feet flat:
  • Place your hands on your ribs at the sides of your chest. Inhale, fully and deeply through your nose, pushing your ribs out against your hands as you inhale. Exhale completely through your mouth. Repeat this ankylosing spondylitis exercise 10 times.  
  • Place your hands on the front of your chest. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale as far as possible through your mouth. Push the front of your ribs up against your hands as you inhale. Repeat 10 times. You can do this ankylosing spondylitis exercise anytime, sitting or lying
  1. Lying face-down, with a pillow under your chest if needed, look straight ahead. Keep your arms by your side: 
  • Without bending your knee, raise one leg off the ground. It will help to stretch your opposite arm out in front of you. Repeat this ankylosing spondylitis exercise 5 times for each leg.
  • Lift your shoulders and head off the ground, as high as possible. Repeat this ankylosing spondylitis exercise 10 times.
  1. Kneeling on the floor on your hands and knees, stretch alternate legs and arms parallel to the floor. Hold for a count of 10, then lower. Repeat with opposite leg and arm. Repeat this ankylosing spondylitis exercise 5 times on each side.

If you have ankylosing spondylitis, contact sports such as basketball and football should be avoided because your spine and joints can be severely injured. There are lots of other ankylosing spondylitis exercises you can enjoy.

One of the best ankylosing spondylitis exercises for many types of arthritic conditions is swimming. It provides exercise for your joints and muscles without jarring. The breaststroke and the front crawl may be difficult as an ankylosing spondylitis exercise if you have limited movement in your neck, and swimming with your head up can increase neck pain. Consider using a snorkel. The breaststroke can also cause inflammation of the pelvis and hips so the back crawl may be a better ankylosing spondylitis exercise if you have pain in your lower back.

Consult your physical therapist for advice on what forms of swimming will help you the most, or to provide you with a program of water exercises as an alternative to swimming.

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