6 Self-Care Tips for axSpA

Healthy habits help you manage your axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA), including ankylosing spondylitis.

If You Smoke, Quit

Smoking can make symptoms of axSpA worse, speed up joint damage and make treatment less effective. The joints that allow your rib cage to expand can be attacked in axSpA, making breathing problems caused by smoking worse. Smoking makes it tough to stay active — a key part of axSpA treatment. It also ups the risk of other health problems that are common in inflammatory arthritis, especially heart disease. 

Not sure how to get started? Talk to your primary care doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Your family and friends care about your well-being too, so they can encourage you along the way. 

Get Moving 

Exercise is important for everyone with arthritis, but it’s essential — and prescribed –— if you have axSpA. You need to do it to preserve your posture and spine flexibility. Swimming and other exercises that extend the back such as Pilates, yoga, and tai chi are great ways to maintain mobility and relieve pain. But don’t limit yourself to stretching. Cardio exercise that gets your heart rate up and strength training are also important. A physical therapist will work with you to develop a complete exercise program. 

Watch Your Posture

Do all you can to keep your spine straight. Sleep on a firm mattress or with a thin (or no) pillow under your head. Every day, practice standing against a wall with your heels, bottom, shoulders and head touching the wall. Also, do all the posture exercises your physical therapist recommends.

Experiment With Diet

There’s no one diet for axSpA, but many people find that sticking with a healthy diet helps them feel better. Choose fresh veggies, fruit and whole grains. Limit red meat, sugar, soda and other junk foods. If you’re having trouble figuring out a healthy way to eat on your own, ask your doctor for a referral to a dietitian who specializes in inflammatory disease.

Get Good Sleep

The back pain of axSpA may wake you up in the middle of the night. Lack of sleep can make you more sensitive to pain. Tossing and turning can also set you up for depression and fatigue. Do all you can to get the best possible sleep

  • Make sure you are taking your medicines as directed.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Limit screen time before bed.
  • Exercise during the day.
  • Talk to your doctor if these tips don’t work. 

Manage Stress

Living with a chronic disease is stressful. Find healthy ways to manage stress that work for you and your life. This can be whatever makes you feel calm.

  • Meditate.
  • Practice yoga.
  • Take walks in nature.
  • Spend time with your pets.
  •  Listen to music.

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