This information is for anyone with axial spondyloarthritis (axial SpA) including people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS)
1. Stay under the care of your rheumatologist
You should be diagnosed by a rheumatologist and continue to have regular appointments. Make sure you attend your annual appointments, even when you’re feeling fine. That way, you can make sure you are staying on the right track.
2. Love yourself
Finding out that you have AS can be life changing and there are times that it will get you down. It’s important to pay attention to your emotional and psychological needs – not just your physical needs. Facing your condition directly and accepting your needs can help with your work life, relationships and social life.
3. Take your medications
All medications come with benefits and risks. It’s important to understand the potential risks but also to keep them in proportion. Sometimes, you will really need your medications to live well and manage your condition. Don’t struggle if there is a medication that could really improve your quality of life.
4. Check your posture
Think tall all day. Stand sideways in front of a full-length mirror. Imagine dropping a weighted string from the top of your head to your feet. Stand so it passes straight down-through your earlobe, shoulder, center of your hip, behind your kneecap, and in front of your anklebone.
5. Get into hot water
You probably notice that your back pain feels worst when you first wake up. Stepping into a steamy bath or shower can relieve aches and loosen up stiff muscles and joints.
Keeping your muscles and joints moving improves your symptoms in the long term, and may even affect the course of your disease. Ask your physiotherapist to teach you which exercises are best for you. Keep on track by attending a NASS branch regularly for supervised physiotherapy.
7. Stay active
It’s important to keep your heart and lungs healthy. You could consider walking, Nordic walking, swimming and cycling. Don’t give up on activities you enjoy. With the right help you can continue doing the things that make you happy.
8. Know your limits
Take a balanced approach to your activities, so you don’t burn-out or become completely inactive. Think about doing less than you think you can on your good days and more on your bad days.
9. Eat healthily
It is important make sure you maintain a healthy weight as being overweight increases the burden on weight-bearing joints and can increase pain.
Try to eat at least 4 portions of vegetables (including at least 1 leafy green vegetable) every day, along with 2 portions of fruit. Add in protein in the form of fish, beans, pulses, nuts, eggs and meat (not too much). Calcium is important for bone health and you need around 700mg a day – equivalent to 200ml semi-skimmed milk, a 150g pot of low-fat yogurt and a small matchbox sized piece of cheese.
There is no evidence that following any particular diet will help the symptoms of your axial SpA (AS).
10. Join the club
Membership of NASS can go a long way towards improving your health and your life. You’ll benefit from up-to-date information on treatment, as well as support with information on benefits and work. You’ll also connect with others in a similar situation. Not only will you feel less alone, you’ll be able to share solutions.