Are you having chronic back or joint pain? If you are, exercising may seem daunting or painful. If ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is the cause, it is very important to stay active. AS patients who do not exercise may become fatigued and experience more pain because the lack of movement leads to muscle weakness and stiffness of the spine. AS can be very painful and progressive in nature if left untreated. The Mayo Clinic describes this illness as an inflammatory arthritis disease that typically causes pain and stiffness in the spine. The most prevalent warning sign of this disease is low back pain that is hugely associated with the sacroiliac joints, where the spine connects to the pelvis.
This condition has been found to be more common in men than women and typically begins at an early stage of adulthood, though it is possible — yet rare — to progress in a later stage of life or during childhood. While the cause of AS is largely unknown, 90% of the risk of developing AS is related to genetic makeup.
In more chronic and severe cases, the symptoms can lead to ankylosis, which causes new bone formations in the spine and can lead to parts of the vertebrae fusing together — decreasing mobility. Although not all cases are the same from person to person and not everyone with AS experiences the severity of spinal fusing and disability. Some may only feel discomfort and minor back pain that disturbs their normal rhythm of life.
“Along with spinal stiffness, involvements of hips, shoulders and heel/foot are most common. Difficulty with expanding, extending your chest due to stiffness in rib mobility is also a striking sign noted in clinical setting,” says Palak Shah, PT.
Some other common symptoms include:
- Pain that appears to worsen in the morning and at night, or after periods of inactivity
- A rigid spine that leads to decreased mobility
- Swelling in the joints
- Difficulty taking deep breaths
Role of Exercise and Physical Therapy in AS
AS is a rheumatic disease and hence initial diagnosis would be based on X-Ray findings, blood tests along with thorough history and physical examination by a rheumatologist. It is estimated that 75% of AS patients with mild restriction in spinal movement who had the disease for at least 10 years do not develop more spinal improvement.
“Physical therapy treatment in AS is focused on maintaining and preventing deterioration of cardiovascular, lung and spinal function. Exercise and posture control are critical in AS,” says Shah. It helps with
- Maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness by gradual progressive exercises that do not induce abnormal symptoms but should be intense enough to increase heart rate.
- Maintaining bone health by performing risk-adjusted strengthening exercises that help curtail the effects of osteoporosis or avoids vertebral fractures.
- Maintaining lung function by incorporating chest expansion exercises and monitoring for any symptoms that warrant referral to the doctor.
While you work on your exercise routine, keep these helpful tips from SpineUniverse in mind:
- If you feel any stiffness or soreness prior to working out, it is a good idea to take a hot bath or shower to soothe your joints.
- The best time to exercise is during the day, when you are the most awake or in the least amount of pain.
- Gradually work up to each exercise, try not to push yourself or overdo it.
- Do not encourage poor posture and avoid exercises that put a strain on your spine.
- If possible, walk on flat, level surfaces.
- Stick with low-impact exercises to avoid putting unnecessary pressure on your joints.
- Stop exercising immediately if you are in pain.
Physical Therapy with Luna Could Be The Solution
When you suffer from ankylosing spondylitis, avoiding delays in care can help delay the severe symptoms and delay the process of spinal stiffness. In severe cases, the stiffness and pain may be limiting you from getting out of the house. With Luna’s On-Demand PT, you can get PT in the comfort of your own home, gym, or office. No more waiting in a patient room or fighting through traffic. With Luna, you’re also able to monitor your progress and keep up with your goals on the Luna Exercises app. It is easy to access and connect with your PT through every step of the way. Your physical therapist can even offer you feedback and modify your exercise plan based on your progress.
If you or your loved one is experiencing any of the key warning signs and may be at risk of AS, contact your Luna PT to get a full evaluation and begin treatment with experts who really care about your health.
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