A woman lies on her yoga mat on the floor of her living room in a gentle stretch.

Easy Axial Spondyloarthritis Stretches

Gaining or maintaining flexibility with axial spondyloarthritis may seem impossible. Luckily, it does not have to be. Stretching can be used to help ease pain, lessen stiffness, improve your posture, and increase your strength.

In addition to seeing your doctor and following your own treatment plan, staying active is key to managing your symptoms of axial spondyloarthritis.

But, this is easier said than done when you are in pain. Let us explore some options you have to help you maintain and improve your flexibility between your flare days. These stretches may even help when you are flaring – but be sure to take it easy, and if you feel any pain at all, back off.

How stretching can help with Ankylosing Spondylitis

Axial spondyloarthritis causes inflammation and pain in the joints of the spine, shoulders, hips, and other joints. The inflammation also causes stiffness, which is usually worse in the morning or after sitting or lying down for a long time.

Stretching helps to loosen the stiff muscles and joints and may help to ease some of the pain. Stretching can also help you to relax when your pain and stiffness are bothering you.

When should you stretch?

You do not have to be a master at yoga to get the benefits of stretching. Gentle range-of-motion stretches are best. These help keep your spine and joints from getting stiff.

It can help to perform these stretches in the morning to help with this stiffness. Remember to use your body as your guide to decide when it is best to do these stretches. If it is painful or very uncomfortable, don't push it.1

What stretches are best?

If you are new to exercise, it is best to talk to your provider before starting. Your doctor or physical therapist may have more ideas for stretching as well. The following stretches are found on the National Institute on Aging, the NHS, and CreakyJoints websites.

Help maintain and improve your posture

Against a wall stretch

Stand against a wall, making sure your heels and buttocks touch the wall. Stand as straight as you can. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then relax. Repeat.

person standing against a wall with heels and buttocks touching the wall

Belly stretch

Lie face down on your belly. Slowly prop yourself up onto your elbows, bringing your chest off the floor. Hold the stretch. Relax, then repeat.

person lying face down and slightly lifting up in a sphinx position

Low back stiffness stretch

Lie on your back with your legs and knees bent and together. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Keep your arms out to your sides. Try to keep your shoulders on the ground the entire stretch. Keeping your legs and knees together, slowly lower them to one side. Return them to the center and repeat on the other side.

person lying on their back and rotating bent knees side to side

A few things to consider

  • Let your providers know you are planning on starting a stretching routine.
  • Make sure and stretch after exercising in order to slow your heart rate and improve flexibility.
  • If you have had surgery or any other medical concerns, these stretches may not be best for you. Again, talk to your provider about what is best.

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