8 Natural Pain Relief Tips for Ankylosing Spondylitis


2. Practice Good Posture

Over time, AS can cause your vertebrae to fuse together, putting strain on your spine and leading to a stooped posture. This can create a vicious pain-posture cycle, according to the Spondylitis Association of America (SAA): You tend to bend over if you’re experiencing pain in your back, which can further increase strain on your spine. To help combat this, Ostrowski recommends checking your posture frequently at home and at work. “Make sure you’re well-aligned and that you do gentle range-of-motion exercises often to avoid long periods of immobility,” she says. Reinforce good posture by regularly checking your alignment against a wall, she adds. You don’t want your spine to stiffen into a bent position, so aim for tall and straight.

3. Check Your Sleep Posture

“Sleep posture is also important,” Ostrowski says. “You need a firm bed and a pillow that supports your neck properly. Avoid a pillow that’s too high. Sleeping on your belly is best for your posture, but some people can only sleep on their side or back.” If you’re in that group, try spending a few minutes of your awake time practicing prone lying, which involves lying face down on a firm surface. For comfort, you can turn your head from side to side. This exercise helps promote better daily posture. Work up to 20-minute sessions to help with back pain relief.

4. Take a Warm Soak

“A warm bath or shower is a natural way to relieve the pain and stiffness of ankylosing spondylitis,” Ostrowski says. “Stretching to relieve pain and stiffness is also better after a warm shower. You should avoid stretching with cold joints and muscles.” Alternating hot and cold compresses on painful spots is another natural pain-relief strategy you can try, the Arthritis Foundation recommends.

5. Try Acupuncture

This ancient technique that involves inserting thin needles through the skin may stimulate your body’s natural pain relievers. “Studies on acupuncture for back pain relief have had mixed results,” Ostrowski says. “But I don’t discourage it, and it’s helped some people with back pain.” A review of clinical trials noted that acupuncture improved “pain and functionality” in people with low back pain, though more research is needed for its effects on ankylosing spondylitis. Acupuncture should be performed by a trained and licensed acupuncture professional.

6. Get a Massage

“Massage therapy, when performed by a therapist accustomed to working with ankylosing spondylitis, may be helpful,” Ostrowski says. Massage may not only help relieve the pain and stiffness of ankylosing spondylitis, but it may also help ease the stress commonly brought on by having a chronic condition, according to the SAA.

7. Practice Yoga

“Yoga is a great natural pain reliever for ankylosing spondylitis,” Ostrowski says. “You need to start with very basic poses and be patient, but if you work with an instructor who can modify the yoga positions for you, you can really benefit from this form of exercise.” Results from a clinical trial of yoga for chronic low back pain found that yoga reduced pain and improved functionality while enhancing sleep quality in adults with the condition.

8. Consider Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

TENS involves passing an electric current through the skin. It may work on the same principle as acupuncture by bringing about the release of the body’s natural pain relievers, CreakyJoints notes. Although there have been some studies on TENS for back pain, results are mixed. Ostrowski says physical therapists may use TENS for pain that’s not responding to exercise and stretching.

Other Tips for Ankylosing Spondylitis Pain Relief

Considering seeing a chiropractor? Chiropractic treatment generally is not recommended for ankylosing spondylitis, the SAA notes. “Chiropractic care isn’t advised for this type of back pain because changes from ankylosing spondylitis may increase the risk of injury during manipulation,” Ostrowski says.

But there are a few other steps you can take to help manage ankylosing spondylitis pain naturally, including cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been shown to be effective in managing chronic pain. Additionally, because people who have AS are at a higher risk for fibromyalgia — and the symptoms of each often overlap — treating for fibromyalgia may be required for more complete pain relief as well, notes CreakyJoints.

Finally, Ostrowski also recommends lots of deep breathing to keep your rib cage flexible, quitting smoking if you currently do smoke, avoiding physical and emotional stress as much as possible, and making sure to get enough rest.

“Sometimes with ankylosing spondylitis,” she says, “you just need to take life a little slower.”

Additional reporting by Diana K. Rodriguez and Brian Dunleavy.



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