Keep On Dancing: Going to a Concert With AxSpA

Axial spondyloarthritis has a way of creeping into every activity I do, like a bright red sock accidentally mixed in with a load of white laundry. Some garments turn bright pink and I have to accept the new look. Other pieces are only tinged with red dye. Sometimes I hardly even notice they’re different than before, until I wear them and become aware of the stain.

Today’s metaphorical, pink-tinged shirt is going to concerts

Before I had axial spondyloarthritis, concerts were a no-brainer. My only worries were a) what I was going to wear and b) whether Taylor Swift would notice me in the crowd and ask her people to invite me backstage. I never had to consider whether my body could physically withstand a concert.

Recently, one of my favorite bands announced their upcoming tour. I excitedly made plans to go with one of my best friends. But when I went online to buy tickets, my excitement was interrupted as I read the words: “General Admission – Standing-Room Only.” Because of my AxSpA, standing in one spot for more than 10 minutes is painful, so the idea of standing for several hours was daunting. I didn’t want this to prevent me from attending the concert, so even though I knew I might not be able to handle it, I clicked “Purchase.”

Worst-case scenarios

As the day of the concert approached, I couldn’t stop myself from imagining worst-case scenarios — what if I need to take a break from standing but I’m too deep in the crowd to get out? What if I only last three songs before I need to leave? What if I miss my favorite song? I had never been to a standing-room only concert since having AxSpA, so I didn’t know what to expect.

On the day of the concert, I took it easy to preserve my energy and pain levels. Luckily, my baseline pain was pretty low that day. If it had been flaring up, I would have thought twice about going. I also made sure to warn my friend in advance that I may have to take breaks or leave partway through if my pain got really bad. She was understanding, which eased some of my anxiety.

Finding places to sit or lean

When we got to the venue, I immediately scanned the room for seating. As predicted, there was none, but there were walls that could be leaned on and semi-clean floors that could be sat on, and the crowd was nowhere near as thick or menacing as I had feared.

The opening act lasted under an hour, and I noticed that there were still 20 minutes before the headliner was scheduled to play. My friend and I used this time to leave the crowd, grab some overpriced drinks and pizza, and sit on the floor near the back of the venue. Maybe we looked weird being the only ones sitting on the ground, but taking this break helped me get through the rest of night.

Moving and dancing

The main act took to the stage, and I soon realized that dancing was key. Because constant movement doesn't aggravate my pain as much as standing still, the more I danced to the music, the longer I could stay on my feet. The music was amazing, so dancing was easy.

Later, my friend and I took another short break to go to the washroom. Standing a bit further back in a sparse area of the crowd was helpful, because we didn’t have to worry about losing our spot or getting in people’s way when coming and going. I would have been less likely to take the breaks I needed if leaving the crowd would have caused a scene.

By the end of the night, my body was exhausted, but luckily, my pain wasn’t at the extreme level I had worried it would be. I actually made it through the whole concert and heard all of my favorite songs! Now that I’ve been to one standing-room only concert, I know that it’s possible if I take certain steps: go with an understanding friend, take breaks when possible, sit on the floor even if you look weird, and keep on dancing.

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