Ankylosing spondylitis and exercise are very closely related and so is correct posture. And this is not only true for ankylosing spondylitis only as exercise should be a part of any arthritis and spondylosis treatment.
What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
But first let us see what is ankylosing spondylitis after all. It is a form of arthritis and affects the spine, especially the sacroiliac joint. This is the joint where the pelvis meets the vertebral column. It causes inflammation of the spine and in the extreme cases can lead to fused spine when the patient gets a permanent forward bent posture. In such conditions the person’s hands, hips, shoulder and even the heels may get affected. However, in less severe cases, exercises, along with medication, can give much relief.
The Exercise Routine
Whether you are suffering from spondylitis or not, exercise is very important for keeping the joints moving. Some people may say that fitting a routine is difficult in the daily life. But the fact is even 10 minutes of exercise can keep you mobile for a longer time. A good exercise program for controlling spondylitis should aim at maintaining a good posture, increasing flexibility and in the process lessen pain. Sometimes the medications can work in tandem in reducing pain and thereby allowing more flexibility.
How to Go Ahead with Exercises
Sometimes some sport can bring in more flexibility. But if you have already been diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, then it is better to go ahead with any physical sport with heavy activity only under supervision. It is always important to consult your physician before getting on with any exercise routine.
The physical therapist can bring in the necessary modifications in the exercise routine depending on your requirement. It is not only important to chose the correct exercises but also to check whether you are doing it in the correct way.
The first thing to pay attention is to find the time when you will be doing the exercises. Generally morning is said to be the suitable time when the body remains stiffer than the rest of the day. So loosening up at that time is always welcome but when the body gets more mobile, it is easier to do the stretching. So you can split up your program into two sessions. That way you can manage time as well as do the exercises properly. But whatever you do pay attention to a few things –
• Start with warming up or loosening up and cool down at the end.
• Allow only that much stress that your body can tolerate at any given time. So begin with lesser repetitions till your body learns to accept the stress. Lingering pain means that you have overdone it.
• Use a mat or carpeted floor for the exercise. Beds should be normally avoided as they may be too soft to support the proper postures.
Importance of Posture
This is the most important part of any exercise program as it is the posture which gets affected in the long run. So an exercise routine should also focus on practicing good posture. Often people tend to bend over to overcome pain caused by ankylosing spondylitis. But this should be avoided in the first place because such bending is the starting point of developing a bad posture which in turn adds to the pain.
Further, it must be noted that the person suffering from ankylosing spondylitis always runs the risk of fusion of the vertebrae. Maintaining the correct posture can keep one away from such conditions. The best way to sit, stand and walk is to keep the spine upright. Balance your head in an upright manner over the trunk. Hold your chin up and in a slightly drawn in manner and parallel to the ground. Keep your spine stretched and do not let it to sag.
Exercises for Ankylosing Spondylitis
Standing Against the Wall
Check your posture by standing with your back against a wall and looking into a full length mirror. If you do not have a mirror, then try to feel it. Just let your shoulder and buttocks touch the wall. Do not press. Your heel should be approximately 3 to 4 inches from the wall. Stand for about 5 seconds and then relax.
Repeat this cycle a few more times. It may strain in the beginning. So let it set in gradually without straining the body. Keep a record of the distance between the back of your head and the wall. It should diminish until you can touch the wall with the back of your head. But do not do this by bending your head backwards. It should happen automatically when your posture improves.
Prone or Lying Down postures
This exercise is often considered the best exercise for improving the posture. Regular practice can also help any person in maintaining the perfect up-right posture. For this you will need to lie face down. Do it on a firm surface like a carpet or mat. If you find it difficult, try initially by placing a pillow below the chest.
If you are suffering from ankylosing spondylitis then you may face difficulty in doing this basic posture. Start initially by practicing this only for a minute or two and then slowly increase the timing. As you start getting accustomed, you can move your head sideways from one side to another after regular intervals and also rest it on your hands.
Exercising the Muscles
Though most of the times people simply try to do stretching and relaxing the spine to improve the posture, it is also important to strengthen the muscles which are responsible for maintaining the right posture. Weak muscles may not always support the weight of the bones. That is why general mobility exercises, walking, swimming, etc. are as important as posture improving exercises. Similarly, it is important to stretch and loosen your back, hip and leg muscles which have a tendency to stiffen with ankylosing spondylitis.
Your rib cage is attached to the spine and that means it also gets affected when a person suffers from ankylosing spondylitis. Deep breathing helps to loosen the ribs as well as chest muscles. So it is often advised by the experts to practice it along with all other exercises that are recommended for countering ankylosing spondylitis.