How Ankylosing Spondylitis Is Treated Lifestyle Changes, Physical Therapy, NSAIDs, and More

While there is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a treatment regimen that consists of physical therapy and medication can effectively ease a person’s symptoms of joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, and also improve everyday functioning. The American College of Rheumatology (ACR) created guidelines for treating ankylosing spondylitis that were meant to help doctors optimize the care of their patients with AS in a systematic way, based on research studies.

As a person with AS (or as someone with a friend or family member who has AS), knowledge about treatment guidelines will help you navigate this complex and chronic disease more confidently.

Lifestyle Changes

Quitting smoking is an essential component for improving symptoms from ankylosing spondylitis. Evidence suggests that smoking may exacerbate disease symptoms.

Exercise is also an important part of treatment for ankylosing spondylitis. Daily exercise can help decrease symptoms and increase your mobility, flexibility, and strength.3 Practicing good posture may also help prevent long-term complications. Your doctor can help you develop an exercise plan that is safe and effective for you.

Physical Therapy

In addition to medication, the American College of Rheumatology recommends physical therapy for people with active AS (meaning those who have symptoms of inflammation like joint pain and stiffness).

A number of studies have found physical therapy to be beneficial in reducing pain and improving spinal mobility, posture, flexibility, physical functioning, and well-being.

The good news is there is little harm associated with physical therapy. Also, a person can engage in exercises and stretches at home or within a group setting. However, research does suggest that supervised group physical therapy may be more beneficial than home exercises.

What may be even more appealing (and luxurious) for those with AS is a type of therapy called spa-exercise therapy. This type of therapy includes exercising in warm water, undergoing a massage from hydrotherapy jets, and relaxing in a steamy sauna.

In fact, research has found that spa-exercise therapy combined with group physical therapy is better than group physical therapy alone.

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