My Stretch Routine
I like to think of ankylosing spondylitis as a very intense personal trainer that uses the threat of my spine fusing together to motivate me to exercise.
Aside from all the physical and mental health benefits that exercise provides, staying active reduces the risk of fusion and can also help manage the condition by reducing pain and stiffness whilst increasing mobility.
It's not always easy
Waking up and squatting heavy weights first thing in the morning is near impossible when living with AS. If it isn't the pain or stiffness getting in the way of a workout, then fatigue often drains us of any energy
This is why stretching is so great for those of us with chronic conditions. It's a way of still getting all of these benefits without requiring a huge amount of energy which is very helpful on those high fatigue days. It’s also a great way of reducing pain and stiffness before a workout if you do have the energy for one, or even just to get you ready for the day ahead.
Speaking with a physiotherapist
Early into my diagnosis I had a few sessions with a physiotherapist (physical therapist) who assessed which parts of my body were most affected and what I needed to work on most. We used this information to come up with a stretch routine that I still perform to this day.
I've found that it adds a bit of routine into my life and reduces pain and stiffness. It has also increased my mobility tremendously.
Sometimes I find myself waking up feeling too stiff to think about performing any kind of exercises. In these cases, I run myself a hot bath with Epsom salt to loosen me up & wait until my body feels ready to get down onto the yoga mat.
Editors note: This is a routine that works for James. Please consult with a healthcare professional before trying any new exercises.
I thought a video of me performing the routine would be the best way to show you guys exactly what I do. I have written up the names of each exercise so feel free to google them for more information if I didn't do them justice on camera!
- Child's Pose (1 minute)
- Cat Cow Stretch (10 up and 10 down)
- Pelvic Lifts (10 reps) and/or One Legged Pelvic Lifts (8 reps on each leg)
- Side Lying Leg Raises (15 on each side)
- Knee Rolls (10 on each side)
This is one set of the routine and usually I try to get 3 sets done. I usually take a 20-30 second break between each exercise and a 2-3 minute break between each set. However, if you feel in need of more time then take a longer break - it isn't a race!
Go at your own pace
Remember don't rush these stretches or force your body to take on more than it can handle. If you have any concerns, please speak to a doctor before trying any of these. The aim here is to feel better afterwards and not to do ourselves any more damage!
If you feel like you are unable to complete the amount of reps I listed, then feel free to reduce it to an amount that you are comfortable with. It's nothing to be ashamed of - when I first started I couldn't complete these numbers and had to work my way up to it. Alternatively, you could always take a mid-set break until you are ready to complete the final reps.
Always listen to your body so if any of these are too much for you don't be afraid to skip them. If it is causing you any pain at all please stop immediately.
Some final advice
I thought I would share my routine with you all because it has helped me keep my condition under control so well. Of course, we are all different so it may not be the one for you. I would always recommend asking your doctor to refer you to a physiotherapist to come up with one that is tailored to your personal needs. I am so glad I did this myself!
If you wanted to look up a few more ideas there is also a great app available on iOS called "NASS Back to Action." It has a huge database on stretches and exercises designed specifically for people with Ankylosing Spondylitis so you are sure to find something to help with whatever you might be struggling with.
Do you have a stretch routine? Let me know what you do in the comments.
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