Things That Could Make Your Ankylosing Spondylitis Worse

Medically Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on September 25, 2023
3 min read

When you have ankylosing spondylitis (AS), there’s a lot you can do to manage your condition. You want to help prevent things that could make it get worse, such as these common issues.

When you aren’t active enough, your spine, muscles, and joints can become stiffer. You also miss out on the flexibility, posture, pain-relief, and overall health benefits too. Aim to make movement part of your daily routine. Throughout the week, incorporate cardio, stretching, mobility, strength, balance, and breath exercises.

AS can change the position you hold your body in when you stand, sit, or lie down. Good posture can reduce pain and help your body stay limber.

The key is to maintain a straight spine as much as possible. You can use a mirror to help you learn how to do this. A physical therapist can also show you strategies and provide tips.

If you haven’t quit nicotine yet, now is the time. Your symptoms can get worse if you smoke. Treatment may not work as well either. Plus, the chances that the bones in your spine will join, also called fusion, is higher.

You already have a greater risk for lung issues and heart attack or stroke because of AS. Smoking only raises those chances and could make problems more serious.

You may find it harder to get the exercise you need if you are obese (BMI of 30.0 or more). The extra pounds also add pressure to your bones and joints. On top of this, your treatment may be less effective.

As for your diet, there isn’t one way you should eat when you have AS. But you may notice that some foods have a good or bad impact on your symptoms. For instance, you may do better when you eat in a way that lowers inflammation. Keeping a log of your meals and snacks could help you see what affects you and how.

You may feel more pain and make your symptoms worse if your stress builds up or lasts too long. You need healthy stress management methods. There are many you can choose from. Just a few helpful strategies include regular exercise, meditation, breathing techniques, spending time outdoors, listening to music, or doing other things you enjoy.

You can aggravate symptoms and drain yourself when you mentally or physically overdo it. You want to strike a balance between rest and activity without doing too much or too little of either.

Gauge how much you can handle at your best and your worst. Write down how tasks, activities, and everyday situations affect your symptoms and use this as a guide to help you pace yourself through tasks and situations.

Your AS could get worse temporarily. That’s common. People with AS often go through these cycles of remission and flares. You can talk to your rheumatologist or another doctor about options to handle this.

There are different types of medications for AS. You may not discover which drug and treatment options work best for you right away. Your condition may not be under control if you notice you have flare-ups more often and they last longer. Be sure to talk to your doctor if this happens.

Remember that your treatment is more than medication. Physical activity is also key. Make sure you’re keeping up with the plan your doctor recommended.

Progression. Treatment can help slow or stop AS from getting worse (progressing). But for some people, it still can.