7 Items That Help with my AxSpA
With a chronic illness that is largely out of my control, I rely on certain items to give me a sense of control and to be as comfortable as possible. These items don’t take away my pain, but they do make a difference. When I was first diagnosed, I wasn’t aware of all of these — I learned what helps me over time. If you have recently been diagnosed with AxSpA or AS, you might want to consider some of these items. In my opinion, anything that can make even a slight improvement to your chronic pain experience is a worthwhile investment. Here are seven items that help me deal with my AS.
Heated blanket, heated vest, and heating pad
For me personally, heat doesn’t improve my pain, but it does bring me comfort and provides a sensation that helps distract my brain from my pain. Crawling into bed with my heated blanket always feels nice, regardless of my pain levels. My heated vest keeps me warm in the winter and also directly warms my back, allowing me to apply heat even as I’m walking around. I also have a heating pad that I can place on my back or hips. My car seat heater and heated steering wheel cover also get a lot of use, but those have less to do with pain management and more to do with my distaste for the Canadian winter.
Early on in my AS journey, I noticed that my pain got worse on long car rides. It turns out that the design and softness of regular car seats aren’t good for my back. This car seat made a world of a difference in my pain levels. Now, I don’t go on any car rides without it. It’s also portable, which means I can bring it anywhere that might have unsupportive, soft seating.
Ergonomic office chair
Recently, I got my first 9-5 job working from home, requiring me to sit at my desk for long periods of time. I got an ergonomic office chair to mitigate the pain I get after sitting down all day. For me, the most important features in an office chair are lower back support and a firm (not cushiony) seat. It’s a good idea to test out chairs in-store when possible, to see what feels best for you.
Another item that helps me when working from home with AS is an under-desk footrest. A footrest is something I had never considered until a work colleague suggested it — but I was pleasantly surprised with how big of a difference it made for me. Specifically, it reduces the strain on my hips by keeping my legs supported and at a 90-degree angle while I work. I would highly recommend using a footrest if you have hip pain.
One of the most important items in managing my AS symptoms is my mattress. If I sleep on a soft, droopy mattress, I wake up with intense pain the next morning. I’ve learned over time that the best mattress for me is a very firm one without any memory foam or cushioning. A good mattress is a financial investment, but it’s worthwhile in terms of your health and wellbeing.
Good shoes and orthotics
Anyone with joint pain knows that good shoes are incredibly important. My favourite shoes for the warmer months are these Birkenstocks — they’re very supportive, allowing me to walk for longer distances with less pain. In all of my other shoes, I insert custom orthotics that I got from a podiatrist. When I use my orthotics, I notice a significant difference in my pain and ability to walk.
Sunlight mimicking lamp
Many of us with AS and other chronic illnesses deal with chronic fatigue. Something that helps me, especially in the winter when there are fewer hours of daylight, is a sunlight mimicking lamp. These lamps are known to help with Seasonal Affective Disorder, Depression, and sleep disorders, but may also help with fatigue. At the very least, I find that my sunlight lamp improves my mood and makes it slightly easier to face my most difficult days.
Although having these items won’t take my AS away, they all make small improvements to my pain and wellbeing. I feel better knowing that I’m doing everything in my power to cope with this illness and using every resource available to me. If you have AS, I hope you found some of these ideas useful.
What items do you use to help with your AS?
Can you tell when a flare is coming?