AS AND NR-AXSPA DIET & EXERCISE
Besides finding appropriate medication, here is how diet and exercise can be part of an overall treatment plan for ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA).
How diet may play a role in AS and nr-axSpA
To control inflammation caused by AS or nr-axSpA, the best path forward is to partner with your rheumatologist to find a treatment plan that's right for you.
Some people with ankylosing spondylitis or non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis, and other inflammatory conditions, found that certain foods trigger changes in symptoms. Keep a food diary to see if there are differences in symptoms—better or worse—and to detect possible food sensitivities. Enjoying anti-inflammatory foods—like fruits, vegetables, fish, and healthy fats—may reduce inflammation and help your body fight AS and nr-axSpA.
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The importance of exercise in AS and nr-axSpA
Getting regular exercise is vital in managing ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and non-radiographic axial spondyloarthritis (nr-axSpA), as it can help prevent permanent stiffness and preserve range of motion in your back and neck. Exercise has been shown to help maintain mobility and range of motion, improve general health and function, and it plays a role in helping to prevent stiffness related to AS and nr-axSpA.
Talk to your rheumatologist, who may recommend you see a physical therapist who can work with you on your overall exercise program. Here are a few exercises you can try:
- Deep-breathing exercises and aerobic activities can help keep your chest and rib cage flexible.
- Swimming can help keep your spine, neck, shoulders, and hips flexible.
- Strength training and aerobic exercises are good choices for overall health.
- Yoga and other stress-reduction techniques like meditation, tai chi, and massage can help manage pain. Many people with AS and nr-axSpA report stress reduction is important to their ability to manage pain, as stress and anxiety can make symptoms worse.
- Stretching, or range of motion exercises, can help you improve flexibility and reduce pain and stiffness—and can minimize the risk of fusion. Practicing good posture is also important, as it can help ease some pain and stiffness.
STRETCHES TO HELP YOU GET STARTED:
Kneeling lunge stretch
Start on both knees and move one leg forward, placing your foot flat on the ground. Keep your weight balanced through your hips and place both hands on top of your thigh and gently lean forward.
Bring your arms up above your head and straighten them. Gently move your hands forward and down, bending at the middle and reaching for your feet until you feel the stretch.
Bending side stretch
Stand with your feet about hip distance apart. Raise one arm and gently bend over your head as you stretch your side. Try this a few times on both sides of your body.
5 exercise tips for those with AS
Before starting a new exercise plan, discuss with your rheumatologist if it’s right for you.
- Exercises should be done daily (try it on a carpeted floor or mat)
- Learn to give priority to areas that need exercise the most
- Start new exercises carefully and begin with low repetitions
- To help avoid injury, don’t force your body into painful positions
- Move into stretches slowly and avoid bouncing (which can cause muscle strain)
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I had to learn to trade off and substitute some things, like biking for stationary biking more often.
Real AS patient
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DISCOVER A TREATMENT OPTION FOR AXSPA
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1. Ankylosing spondylitis. Spondylitis Association of America. Accessed June 30, 2021. https://spondylitis.org/about-spondylitis/types-of-spondylitis/ankylosing-spondylitis/ 2. Axial spondyloarthritis. Arthritis Foundation. November 28, 2017. Accessed June 30, 2021. http://www.arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/ankylosing-spondylitis/symptoms.php 3. Foods that fight inflammation. Harvard Health. Published August 29, 2020. Accessed June 30, 2021. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation 4. National Institutes of Health. What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. 2014. 5. Spondylitis Association of America. Sample Spondyloarthritis Exercise Program. Spondylitis Association of America. 2020. 6. Stretching for back pain relief. Spine-Health. October 11, 2017. Accessed June 30, 2021. https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/exercise/stretching-back-pain-relief 7. Treatment information: diet & nutrition. Spondylitis Association of America. Accessed June 30, 2021. https://spondylitis.org/about-spondylitis/treatment-information/diet-nutrition/ 8. Treatment information: exercise. Spondylitis Association of America. Accessed June 30, 2021. https://spondylitis.org/about-spondylitis/treatment-information/exercise/ 9. Treatment information: stress reduction. Spondylitis Association of America. Accessed June 30, 2021. https://spondylitis.org/about-spondylitis/treatment-information/