Patient Blogs | Ankylosing Spondylitis
Complementary Therapies That Have Helped With My AS
photo of woman holding yoga pose on mat

I received a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis over 20 years ago, and I was told by my doctor there was no cure. During my journey with AS, I’ve taken many medications to control the pain and inflammation. I’m a research nerd, so I looked into other ways to manage pain with medication.

I discovered many complementary therapies and tried a few. I had nothing to lose. So far, I’ve found the following therapies that have tremendously helped me with pain management.

Acupuncture

This is a drug-free form of pain management, which is appealing to many people who are seeking to avoid the side effects of pain medications. I’ve had needles inserted in my neck, back, and my knees. The treatments were relaxing, and I fell asleep a few times. One of the biggest benefits of acupuncture is that it’s very effective for pain management because it targets the source of the pain.

Massage Therapy

I love massages. There are different types of massage, but I usually go for deep tissue or Swedish massage. I’ve also tried aromatherapy massage, and the lovely scent of lavender has sent me into a deep state of relaxation. Massage helps to break up the tension in the muscles, which helps to reduce pain.

Yoga

I started practicing yoga several years ago. It has been very helpful for pain and with my mind. When I get on my mat, it’s just me. It’s my quiet Zen time to get in touch with my body. I focus on my breath and the movement. Yoga has helped me to become more aware of my body and how it’s feeling. It has also helped me to build strength and flexibility, which is important for people with AS.

Imagery and Visualization

This is a technique I use whenever I’m in discomfort and need to distract myself. I close my eyes and picture myself in a peaceful place. It might be the beach I visited in Mexico, or I may picture myself sitting on the top of a mountain high in the sky. I focus on the details of the scene -- the sound of the waves, the smell of the air, and the feel of the sun on my skin. This technique helps me to focus on something other than the pain, and it has been very effective.

Relaxation Techniques

I like to use progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing different muscle groups in the body. I make sure I’m in a quiet place and not disturbed for about 15 minutes. I start by tensing the muscles in my toes and feet for a few seconds and then relaxing them. I move up through the different muscle groups in my body, tensing and relaxing as I go. This helps me to focus on the sensations in my body and to release any tension that I’m holding onto.

Physical Therapy

A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve your range of motion, flexibility, and strength. They can also provide guidance on how to take care of your body. I was fortunate to work with a great physical therapist after my first hip replacement surgery. She was so patient and encouraging, even when I got hard on myself from the exercises. Having a therapist in your corner can make a big difference in managing pain.

Nutrition and Dietary Changes

Eating a healthy diet is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for people with AS. Foods such as omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric, and ginger can help to reduce inflammation in the body. I try to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. I also drink enough water throughout the day.

Stress Management

Stress can be a trigger for pain, and it’s important to manage it. I like to use journaling to deal with stress. I just start writing and let whatever comes out, come out. It’s a great way to get all the thoughts and feelings out of my head. Regular exercise also helps. It doesn’t have to be anything intense, just a walk around the block or some light stretching. 

Managing pain takes some time and effort. It’s important to find what works for you and to be patient. What works for me might not work for you, but I hope that sharing what has helped me might give you some ideas about things to try.

In the battle against AS, you need to be armed with as many weapons as possible.

 

 

Photo Credit: PeopleImages / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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Lovaine Cohen

Lovaine Cohen

Diagnosed since 2001

Lovaine Cohen has lived with ankylosing spondylitis for over 20 years. A chronic pain coach, Lovaine helps women reduce pain with her Holistic Healing Method program and shares pain management and anxiety tips on her blog and on Instagram. Her loves include her two children in their early 20s, a rescue husky named Stella, and her husband of 28 years. Connect with Lovaine on Instagram.

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