Patient Blogs | Ankylosing Spondylitis
Let's Get Comfortable
photo of dancer stretching

The winter for me is always bad. There are days I don’t feel like getting out of bed and even days when I don’t. The important thing for me to do during these times is just try to get comfortable. That’s it. I try not to set unrealistic expectations on myself. My only goal is to get comfortable.

When I feel a flare coming on or just wake up hurting, the first thing I do is take a hot bath. I know they say that heat is bad for inflammation, but a bath is my go-to. I will throw in a bath bomb, or I have some Epsom salts that I keep in the bathroom that I will put in the bath. My legs and back are usually the culprits, and this helps me relax them so I can stretch.

That’s right, I said stretch. Stretching helps me tame the muscle spasms when they decide to visit. I try to stretch my lower back when I get out of the bath. Just a gentle stretch. No bouncing, just a gentle stretch and hold. When I do this, my back spasms seem to be less frequent and not as intense. My feet will also cramp up from time to time, and gentle stretching helps them as well.

Another tool in my toolbox for dealing with flares is a good heating pad. On those days I have trouble moving, I like to curl up in my recliner and grab my heating pad. Just something about that warm heating pad helps me through the day. I’ve tried them all, and just the basic heating pad is what works best for me. I want a heating pad that I can move around to different parts of the body. Some of the bigger heating pads are hard to use on your knee, for example.

The one thing I’m not sure I could do without: my TENS machine. After my first physical therapy appointment for my shoulder surgery, I went out and bought a TENS machine. I saw one at my State Fair and I bought it. I know you don’t think of medical supplies when you think of the fair, but here we are. LOL. My thought was if it didn’t work, I wouldn't be out much money. It’s been almost 10 years, and that TENS machine I bought at the fair is still going strong! I travel with it everywhere just in case my body doesn’t care that I’m on vacation. It’s about the size of a deck of cards, so it fits in my backpack with no problem. I bought a bigger TENS machine that I use at home. In case you have never heard of a TENS machine, it delivers small electrical impulses to your muscles. Those impulses flood your nervous system so it can’t send those pain signals. I just call it magic! Especially on my lower back when it starts to tighten up and hurt on trips. My bigger machine has more settings on it, that's about the only difference in the way it works.

These are a few of the things that help me physically deal with a flare. The mental side is just as important. Don’t be too hard on yourself for not being able to do as much on those days. No one is a winner when you try to push through the pain.



Photo Credit: Westend61 via Getty Images

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Daniel Garcia

Daniel Garcia

Diagnosed since 2003

Daniel Garcia was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis in 2003. He enjoys gardening and traveling in his pop-up camper with his wife, Melissa, and dogs Chloe and Tilly on his good days. Garcia writes about travel on and gardening, technology, and DIY on You can connect with Daniel via his Instagram account.

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