Exercising regularly. This reduces pain
and stiffness and helps maintain fitness and mobility of the spine, chest, and
joints. Your doctor may recommend
physical therapy to get you started on an exercise
Swimming as part of your exercise program
helps to maintain chest expansion and movement of the spine without jarring the
spine. Breaststroke is especially good for chest expansion.
should avoid contact sports, because joint fusion may make your spine more
likely to fracture as the disease progresses. Your doctor may approve of other
activities such as golf and tennis. Check with your doctor before you add any
Maintaining proper posture and chest expansion.
Good posture is important because it can help prevent
abnormal bending of the spine. Maintaining chest expansion may help prevent
problems such as lung infection (pneumonia). It's a good idea to lie on your
stomach a few times each day to keep your spine and hips extended. For
sleeping, choose a firm mattress and a small pillow that supports your neck.
Try to lie flat on your back to sleep. If it's comfortable for you, you can
also sleep part of the night on your stomach.
assistive devices such as canes or walkers. Your local
chapter of the Arthritis Foundation, your physical therapist, or a medical
supply company may be able to help you find assistive devices in your area.
Taking steps to protect yourself in the car, such as always using
a seat belt. Joints that are inflamed or damaged can easily be injured in an
accident. If your neck is becoming stiff, your doctor may advise you to wear a
soft neck brace when you ride in the car, to prevent injury in case of an
Avoiding smoking, to prevent serious breathing
problems and lung scarring. Lung damage from smoking, combined with
decreased chest expansion and the lung infections that sometimes go with
ankylosing spondylitis, can seriously limit your ability to breathe freely.
Seeing your doctor (often a
rheumatologist) at least once each year, to check on
your condition and watch for any complications. Catching complications early
and treating them can prevent further problems.
Talking with your doctor about your job. People who have ankylosing
spondylitis feel better if they stay active and exercise regularly. So a job
that is physically demanding—such as a job that requires lots of heavy
lifting—could increase your symptoms.
Joining a support group. For
more information, call the Spondylitis Association of America toll-free at
1-800-777-8189, or visit the association's website at