How to Manage Lower Back Pain

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on November 19, 2021

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) causes the joints and ligaments that normally allow your spine to move freely to become inflamed and stiff. Since it's a condition that mostly affects your back, lower back pain is one of the primary symptoms. Often, the biggest challenge for people with AS is managing this lower back pain. Although there is no cure, there are several options available for dealing with the chronic back associated with AS. 

Physical Therapy and Exercise

Exercise will help strengthen your back and neck muscles so you can maintain good posture. Stretching exercises can help you maintain your flexibility and range of motion.  Your physical therapist will help design an exercise program that is tailored to your needs. Since AS can affect your breathing, you'll probably need to incorporate deep breathing and aerobic exercises as well. Physical therapy may not stop your AS from getting worse, but it may help relieve your symptoms. 

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Diets that are high in foods that cause inflammation, such as trans fats, processed foods, and refined sugar, can make arthritis pain worse. Eating foods that have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties may help ease your pain. The following foods are high in these properties: 

  • Green tea
  • Fish that are high in omega-3s such as salmon, tuna, and sardines
  • Vegetables
  • Pomegranates, berries, and apples
  • Olive and canola oil
  • Ginger and turmeric
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains

Hot or Cold Therapy

Hot or cold therapy may both be effective for relieving back pain. Heat loosens up your muscles and increases your flexibility, while cold can numb the pain. You can try both to see what works best. Some people find that heat works better before exercising and cold works better afterward.

Heat Therapy

Try soaking in a warm bath or taking a hot shower for 20 minutes. You can wear warm clothes afterward to help hold in the heat. A heating pad or moist heat pads can be applied to sore areas. You can make your own by microwaving a damp towel. Check to make sure it isn't too hot and then wrap it in a dry towel before applying.

Cold Therapy

You can apply an ice pack for 20 minutes at a time for cold therapy. You can use gel-filled cold packs, frozen peas, or ice cubes in a freezer bag. 

Show Sources


Cleveland Clinic: "10 Foods That Help Ease Your Arthritis Pain," "What’s Better for Soothing Arthritis Pain? Ice or Heat?"

University of Washington: "Ankylosing Spondylitis."

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