Physiotherapy and AS
A physiotherapist is an expert who helps you to improve your physical function and reduce your physical pain. They help you lead an active and independent life.
We recommend that everyone sees a physiotherapist for an assessment when they are diagnosed with AS. You should then make sure you see your physiotherapist at least once a year after that.
You can read the story of how regular physiotherapy helped two very different NASS members here.
Your first visit
Your physiotherapist should carefully assess you. They should:
- Listen to your medical history
- Check your posture
- Measure your flexibility, particularly in your back, trunk, neck and hips.
They will then be able to put together an individual treatment programme designed specifically for your needs.
This might include a course of treatment to help get you started with your exercises or to work on a particular area that may be causing you trouble at that time.
If you enjoy a particular sport or type of exercise then do chat about it to your physiotherapist to see if there are any adjustments you should make to avoid problems.
Your treatment could include exercise in a gym or in water, it may include ultrasound, gentle mobilisations or even acupuncture for pain relief.
The physiotherapist may also refer you on to other healthcare professionals. For example, they might refer you to a podiatrist if you are having trouble with walking due to heel or foot pain.
A big part of your physiotherapist's role is to help educate you about your AS, how it can affect you and what you can do yourself to help you minimise the effect AS has on you and your family. Make sure you ask any questions you might have about work, sleep or anything else that may be worrying you.
Physiotherapists can give advice on posture at work, how to sit correctly at a desk, how a computer screen can be positioned and what height it needs to be.
If you do a lot of driving the physiotherapist can talk you through correct seat position, head rests and advise you on taking regular breaks.
Keeping your posture
A physiotherapist will teach you how to check your posture on a regular basis to monitor that it is not getting worse.
Developing a daily exercise programme
A physiotherapist will teach exercises you can do every day at home.
A typical programme will include:
- Stretches, particularly to stretch out the muscles on the front of your chest, shoulders and hips
- Mobility exercises to help maintain or improve your range of movement in your neck, trunk, back and hips
- Strengthening exercises which will help you maintain excellent posture
A physiotherapist can also discuss the correct type of cardiovascular exercise that might be suitable for you to maintain your general fitness, and what sort of exercise you should perhaps avoid.
You can be referred for physiotherapy either by your GP or your rheumatologist.
Some hospital physiotherapy departments will now also take self-referrals which mean you can ring up and refer yourself, without first having to see your GP. Ask your rheumatology department about this.
You can access regular group physiotherapy sessions through NASS branches.
If you are able to pay for your own treatment or have private medical cover then you can refer yourself for private physiotherapy treatment. To find a physiotherapist use the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy website. Some large companies also have occupational health schemes where physiotherapy may be available, so it is always worth checking.
Finally, do bear in mind the intensive AS rehabilitation course at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath.