If you have the inflammatory disease ankylosing spondylitis, you may be wondering what treatment options are available and whether anything you can do can improve your condition. While there is no cure for ankylosing spondylitis, treatments can minimize symptoms and even slow the progression of the disease. Always talk to your doctor about new treatments and exercise programs to be sure they won't conflict with your current treatment regimen.

What is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is an inflammatory disease that causes pain in the lower back and hips. Over time, ankylosing spondylitis can lead to fusing of the vertebra in the lower back. It can also affect the rib cage, causing the ribs to fuse together and making it harder to breathe. Doctors have not found a cause for ankylosing spondylitis, but it may have a genetic component.


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Who Is At Risk for Ankylosing Spondylitis?

Ankylosing spondylitis is more likely to occur in men in their late teens or early twenties, and those who carry the HLA-B27 gene. Even if you do have these risk factors, you won't necessarily develop ankylosing spondylitis. Many people with the HLA-B27 gene do not develop it.


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Treating Ankylosing Spondylitis

Doctors often treat ankylosing spondylitis with medication, as well as exercise, diet, and alternative therapies. People with the condition have different reactions to the medications prescribed, so the doctor may try a combination or range of pharmaceuticals over time.


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Doctors often prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to treat ankylosing spondylitis, including prescription and over-the-counter varieties. Medication injected directly into the inflamed region, can also help relieve pain. Medicine prescribed for conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) and cancer can be useful in treating ankylosing spondylitis. Doctors are always on the lookout for new drugs that can alleviate symptoms of the condition.


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Maintaining a Healthy Weight

Excess weight will put more pressure on your spine and could increase the effects of ankylosing spondylitis. If you have obesity, the doctor may recommend lifestyle changes including exercise and diet to help reduce the extra weight and alleviate the spinal pressure.


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Staying Hydrated

Hydration is vital for those with ankylosing spondylitis. That means drinking enough water to help your body function properly and thereby fight inflammation. The Spondylitis Association of America recommends people with ankylosing spondylitis drink between eight and ten glasses of water every day.


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Warm Baths or Showers

If you find yourself stiff and sore from ankylosing spondylitis, soaking in warm water often helps alleviate the symptoms. Even a warm shower can help the pain and stiffness. If you don't have time for a soak, a warm compress on the affected area may offer temporary relief.


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Alternative Treatments

Some people with ankylosing spondylitis find relief from chiropractic treatment. Acupuncture seems to help the pain in the short term. Massage therapy can offer tremendous improvement by relaxing muscles and helping increase range of motion. Yoga and Tai Chi can help strengthen the body, plus provide flexibility and improve posture. A medical practitioner can give you more information about which practices are best for you.


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Exercise and Posture

Exercise, including stretching and posture exercises, is important for individuals with ankylosing spondylitis; it helps strengthen the body, reduce pain, improve posture, and increase flexibility. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program and ask him or her which exercises are most suitable. Greater range of movement and less pain are just two of the benefits of naturally treating ankylosing spondylitis with exercise.


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Diet and Nutrition

Some people with ankylosing spondylitis find certain foods exacerbate symptoms and cause flare-ups. Eating right and staying away from overly processed foods can help your overall health and reduce inflammation. A doctor or a nutritionist can help you determine the most likely causes of flare-ups and inflammation so that you can avoid those foods in the future.


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