A healthy lifestyle can help ensure a full + vibrant life.
You might expect ankylosing spondylitis, or AS, to deeply inhibit one’s lifestyle. After all, the trademark feature associated with AS is a fused spine, making the lower back stiff and immobile. However, there are a lot of steps that can be done to prevent that from occurring—and to ensure you can continue enjoying your life for years to come.
“Patients that have ankylosing spondylitis can still live full and vibrant lives, and do all the activities that they want to do,” says Themistocles Protopsaltis, MD, spine surgeon at NYU Langone Spine Center. “But what they should know is that it’s best if they try to live the lifestyle that’s as healthy as possible.”
In addition to medical treatments for AS, here are lifestyle tips that may help keep you healthy and mobile:
1. Eat nutritiously.
You can find a number of anecdotes about people who have tried specific diets to treat their AS and other types of arthritis, but few of these are supported by rigorous data. That said, there are certain foods that are known to trigger inflammation in the body, according to the Spondylitis Association of America.
Consider the following diet tips:
Seek out bone-boosting nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K.
Limit alcohol consumption.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Eat lots of whole grains.
Limit saturated fat and sugar, which are known for being inflammatory foods.
Limit processed foods, which are often high in sodium and low in fiber and other nutrients.
2. Quit smoking (or don’t start).
… and that includes “vaping,” or using e-cigarettes.
“Smoking can destroy the small blood vessels that are important in tissue regeneration and tissue repair in the body,” says Dr. Protopsaltis. AS already hurts those tissues, and smoking will inhibit the body’s ability to repair and heal that damage.
3. Practice good posture.
“As the disease progresses, if it gets to the point where these joints are fusing together, you don’t want to be locked into a position where the spine is crooked or the neck is bent, which would make it really difficult to stand, walk, run, and be a healthy individual,” says Dr. Protopsaltis.
4. Get quality sleep.
Sleep serves many functions, and one biggie is “resetting” your system, so to speak. Your body cleans up and recharges a number of organs and functions overnight as you sleep, like a janitor tidies up an office in the evening after everyone has left for the night.
AS is an inflammatory condition, and lack of sleep can worsen the inflammatory state, according to the National Sleep Foundation. In other words, it could increase your lower back pain and stiffness. Here are other health risks of skimping on sleep.
Your nightly snooze also gives you a chance to align your spine. “Try to sleep as flat as possible, without too many pillows,” says Dr. Protopsaltis. This helps you maintain good posture for (hopefully) an entire eight hours.
5. Get moving.
An exercise regimen or physical therapy program is vital. This helps maintain joint mobility, core strength, and flexibility despite your arthritis.
The Spondylitis Association of America recommends making time for exercise every single day—even if it’s only for five or 10 minutes. The morning may be an ideal time to exercise to loosen up your A.M. stiffness.
“Meet with a rheumatologist and start on the right kinds of treatments to improve joint mobility and quality of life, but also, decrease the likelihood that it develops into a chronic condition with permanent joint stiffness and fusion,” says Dr. Protopsaltis.
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Patients that have ankylosing spondylitis
can still live full and vibrant lives,
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and do all the activities
that they wanna do.
00:00:10,089 --> 00:00:15,231
But what they should know is
that it's best if they try
00:00:15,231 --> 00:00:20,505
to lead the lifestyle that's
as healthy as possible.
00:00:20,505 --> 00:00:21,323
00:00:21,323 --> 00:00:24,374
An important part of modifying ankylosing
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spondylitis is to maintain
a healthy lifestyle.
00:00:27,939 --> 00:00:31,697
Good nutrition is important for
every healthy person, but particularly,
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in patients that have
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And one of the most important things
is not to pick up smoking, or
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if you're smoking, to quit smoking.
00:00:40,408 --> 00:00:44,617
Smoking can destroy the small blood
vessels that are important in
00:00:44,617 --> 00:00:47,993
tissue regeneration and
tissue repair in the body.
00:00:47,993 --> 00:00:52,940
If the disease process is already
attacking parts of the disc,
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then the body is impaired to heal
that area if they're smoking.
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It's so important for these patients
to practice excellent posture.
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As the diseases progresses,
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if it gets to the point where these joints
are fusing together and you don't want
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to be locked into a position where
the spine is crooked or the neck is bent.
00:01:11,817 --> 00:01:15,532
Which would make it very
difficult to stand, walk, run, and
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be a healthy individual.
00:01:17,179 --> 00:01:18,654
Sleep is really critical.
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It recharges the whole system,
including the mind.
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Try to sleep as flat as possible
without too many pillows.
00:01:24,711 --> 00:01:28,438
Don't put pillows behind the knees, don't
put too many pillows behind the head.
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Use flatter pillows; that way in those
eight to ten hours of sleep that people
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might get during the night,
they're practicing good posture as well.
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a physical therapy program.
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An exercise routine that's focused on
maintaining mobility of the joints and
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good core strength in the body
is also really important.
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Meet with a rheumatologist and start on
the right kinds of treatments to improve
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joint mobility and quality of life.
00:01:55,635 --> 00:02:00,138
But also, decrease the likelihood that it
develops into a chronic condition with
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permanent joint stiffness and fusion.
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Exercise & posture. Van Nuys, CA: Spondylitis Association of America. (Accessed on June 14, 2019 at https://www.spondylitis.org/Exercise-Posture.)
Diet’s effect on spondylitis symptoms. Van Nuys, CA: Spondylitis Association of America. (Accessed on June 14, 2019 at https://www.spondylitis.org/Diet-Nutrition.)
How sleep affects your immunity. Washington, DC: National Sleep Foundation. (Accessed on June 14, 2019 at https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity.)
Vitamins for bone health. Raleigh, NC: American Bone Health, 2016. (Accessed on June 14, 2019 at https://americanbonehealth.org/nutrition/vitamins-for-bone-health/.)
What happens when you sleep? Washington, DC: National Sleep Foundation. (Accessed on June 14, 2019 at https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/what-happens-when-you-sleep.)