5 Ways We Can Reduce the Impact of our AS Symptoms
Last updated: January 2023
So, you’ve been diagnosed with AS.
You’ve had all the x-rays, the MRIs, and the bloodwork. You’ve endured poking, prodding, and you’ve bent down to touch your toes oh so many times. Of course, let’s not forget the never-ending hospital bills. You’ve paid the money, you’re taking all the “right” medications, and you’re doing what they say.
But you’re still in pain
Every waking moment is tinged with discomfort. Nights are endless bouts of restlessness, trying to find a comfortable position to sleep. The disease has taken over your life, it has consumed your mind and thoughts; consequently, you view the world from a lens of pain and suffering.
Does this sound familiar?
Life with AS is a rollercoaster for many of us. Some days our bodies feel completely fine, and other days we struggle to complete the most basic tasks. When my pain was at its peak, and I was basically immobile, I remember trying to put on socks. I really could not do it.
I was diagnosed in late 2016 after nearly 6 years of escalating symptoms. But, not even a year later, my extremely severe symptoms had disappeared as a result of my active approach to managing my health. I know that remission doesn’t mean I’m cured. The reality is that my symptoms could come back at any time, so I make sure to never lose sight of my condition. AS is a life-long battle.
For the past several years I’ve concentrated my health efforts into answering the following question:
How can I reduce the overall impact of AS after taking all the necessary medical steps?
There is a point when responsibility of care transitions from doctor to patient. Once I took my health into my own hands, I found success in a few different areas, and I’ll share those with you here. I know that my story is unique, and that not everyone will find success as I have. But perhaps these simple steps can help to alleviate your pain.
First of all, I began seeking naturopathic advice, in addition to seeing a rheumatologist. My naturopath emphasized how there are no quick fixes, just changes that would benefit in the long run, if you stick to these changes over time.
I learned that managing my AS symptoms is a life-long challenge for me, and I can never lose sight of my health goals.
I focus my life-long healing on these 5 areas:
1. Stress reduction
I left my high-stress teaching job in 2017, and never looked back. I miss the relationships I built with my students, and the feeling of actually helping people in a direct way. But fortunately, I’ve had kids of my own since then and I’ve been getting the same feeling from being a mother!
2. Eating right
I’ve taken several food sensitivity tests (highly recommend) over the years, and I’ve stuck to a diet that it mostly anti-inflammatory according to my specific results. I currently don’t eat diary, eggs, garbanzo beans, or almonds.
I don’t have a strict regimen, but I try to be active every day. Today, I pulled my 14-month-old around the block in a sled through 4 inches of snow and it was pretty strenuous actually! At a minimum, I try to be on my feet more than seated. In my experience, a sedentary lifestyle leads to more pain and flare-ups.
4. Limiting contact with negative outlets
Covid has limited our contact with most people, but I also take it a step further and silence notifications on my phone. As I am a moderate user of social media, I’ve learned to unfollow to keep myself safe from negativity and wasted time. By doing these things, I am able to increase my interaction with positive outlets – my kids, my husband, my family, friends, and activities that I love.
I don’t have much time for this during my current season of motherhood, but I always make sure to spend at least an hour outside every day. Time in nature has helped me manage my stress and help me tune into my thoughts. In addition, I always try to be in bed by 9pm. Ample sleep is so important so that I can feel ready to take on the next morning, when my baby and 3.5-year-old wake up before 6am.
As I mentioned previously, my story is most likely very different from yours. We are all facing our own unique challenges. If anything, living with this disease has taught me that there is no "magic pill" that makes the pain go away. Most importantly, living with AS is a lifelong challenge, one that involves caring for both our bodies and our minds.
Do you notice worsening flares in colder weather?