Ankylosing Spondylitis and staying mobile with exercise and aqua-therapy
Being able to move is one of our primary needs; imagine this becoming more and more difficult. This is what Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) leads to. We have been working with quite a few AS patients lately, all who have mentioned the lack of support and thus we are focusing on what exercises are safe and efficient to do.
Land based exercises are safe to do, and very accessible. With this said, caution should be taken to not injure the areas that are affected. Here are a few exercises that you can do at home.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Exercises
Lying on your back, keep your core activated and slowly start lifting your bottom off the ground until your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. Slowly roll your back down onto the ground, imagining you are placing one vertebra back onto the ground at a time.
Placing your legs onto a ball slowly roll your legs to one side, keeping your core activated. Do not roll to far as you want to keep the opposite shoulder on the ground. Roll back to the middle and then over to the other side.
Standing on hands and knees, round your back up into the air as far as you can, tucking your chin into your chest. Hold for 2-3 seconds and lower your back to a straight back and lifting your head up to look out in front of you.
Ankylosing Spondylitis Aqua-Therapy
Water based exercises are far more efficient and safe to do, as the water protects you from injuring the affected areas. A heated pool will help with reducing the muscle stiffness and movement will be easier.
With AS affecting posture, the expansion of your chest will become affected and breathing deeply will be more difficult. Thus cardiovascular training is a good form of exercise. Swimming is a great form of cardiovascular training as it’s a fluid motion that does not require any jarring movements that worsen the symptoms of AS. Back stroke and Breast stroke are excellent forms of swimming as it opens up your chest while training, stretching the chest muscles.
Other than cardiovascular training, strengthening and stretching the correct areas is necessary. Doing this in the pool will allow gravity to decrease, and the tension on the spine will decrease allowing for easier movement. The following are safe exercises that you can do in a pool.
Hold a pool noodle around your back and under your arms. Activate your core and pull both your knees up towards your chest. Push your legs out in front of you. Then pull your knees up towards your chest and push your straight legs out behind you. Pull your knees up towards your chest again and repeat.
Hold a pool noodle around your back and under your arms. Activate your core and pull both your knees up towards your chest. Push both your legs out to one side, then pull your knees up towards your chest and push your legs out to the opposite side. Pull your knees back up towards your chest again and repeat.
Cycling Legs with Breast Stroke Arms
Place the noodle between your legs and sit on the noodle as if it was a chair. Start with cycling your legs (as you would when you are on a bike) and move your arms in a breast stroke movement. Continue with these two movements as you move forward in the pool.
Alternating Knees to Chest
Holding the noodle around your back and under your arms, lie on you back and activate your core. Pull one knee up to your chest, while the other leg is straight. Swop legs.
Horizontal Shoulder Abduction
Standing in a pool, lift your arms up to shoulder level. Open and close your arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you open your arms and pull your shoulder blades apart from each other as you close your arms.
Standing on one leg, straighten the other leg out in front of you, moving your leg forwards and backwards.
For more information on AS and other treatment methods refer to our article An overview of Ankylosing Spondylitis.
Author: Jenna-Lee Field and Megan Brunsdon at Fish and Field Biokineticists