Five Ways to Minimise Disease Progression with AS

The most effective treatment for axial spondyloarthritis and ankylosing spondylitis is a plan that puts you in the drivers seat.

Being told you have a progressive disease with no known cure is a heavy reality to accept. But self-managing your AS, in collaboration with your healthcare team, gives you a far greater chance of slowing down or even preventing disease progression.

Here are five of the best strategies I’ve come across to improve your future odds with AS.

  1. Keep Moving

When it comes to our bodies, we move it or lose it. The secret is finding a way to keep moving that doesn’t create pain or injury.

As someone who’s never been particularly sporty, this was a challenge for me. Last year I discovered a yoga channel called Yoga for AS. I began the videos and, following the advice to “stretch, not strain”, I found the exercises to be safe and effective. I’d strongly encourage you to check out their website and try it for yourself. Yoga and walking are now my preferred ways to keep moving.

What safe ways have you found to keep moving?

How does regular exercise help you feel better?

  1. Keep inflammation in check

There are many different ways to keep inflammation at bay, and most research suggests this is the key to preventing fusion.

There are a variety of medications designed to switch off the inflammatory response. Once again, medication is not a one-size-fits all and it’s a matter of working with your doctor to figure out the best approach for you. Our bodies respond to medication in different ways and it often takes patience and experimentation to find what works.

Lifestyle adjustments can help you get ‘more bang for your buck’. Many people have found that working on their overall health improves the effectiveness of their medication or even reduces their reliance on it for symptom relief.

An important note: putting up with high level pain can be dangerous. This is a mistake I made in the early years following my diagnosis. I didn’t like the side effects I experienced with medication so decided to try dietary change instead. It took years to fine-tune a dietary approach that worked well and in the meantime I often tolerated excessive levels of pain. Looking back I now know that using medication to keep the inflammation levels low would have been a safer and less miserable approach to take while I experimented with natural alternatives.

  1. Stay under the supervision of a specialist you trust

It’s important to have an expert overseeing how we are tracking, regardless of how well we might feel.

AS can affect so many other parts of the body; as well as peripheral joints, there are complications that can occur in the eyes, lungs, heart, bowel and skin. It’s important not to rely on ourselves to monitor small changes that could be early warning signs of the condition manifesting in a different way. As with a diagnosis of AS itself, the sooner complications are identified, the better chance of them being managed well.

Do you trust your specialist and feel comfortable with them?

Do you feel like you’re being treated with respect and given the best possible advice and care?

If not, perhaps it’s time to find someone new.

  1. Keep searching for solutions that work for you

I often talk about creating a customised approach for living with AS. What works for someone else may not work for you, but you won’t know until you try!

Many people are stuck in pain and scared of their future but unwilling to try anything different.

While they may not all be using scientifically proven strategies, there are countless anecdotal reports from people using all kinds of things to get relief. These personal stories provide a valuable source of new ideas.

Meanwhile, science is starting to catch up. The links between meditation, breath work, gut health and trauma on physical health were once ignored but are now gaining real traction in the medical world.

Coaching explores different strategies and opens up experimenting with new habits. This can help you begin to redesign a whole-life approach that supports better outcomes, now and in the future.

  1. Remain hopeful

You may have not had a choice in developing AS but you can choose your attitude towards it.

Remain optimistic that you will find your way out of pain and experience quality of life into your senior years.

Being realistic means we will have those days where hope is hard to find. Finding self-compassion on those dark days is equally important. If it’s something you feel overwhelmed by often you may benefit from seeing a psychologist who specialises in chronic illness.

We are fortunate to live in a time when medical expertise has never been greater. We have free access to information. We can connect to communities and individuals in a way we never could have imagined. Understanding of disease, its causes and what can treat it effectively has never been better. With constant advances in technology, imagine what lies ahead, not just for us but for the younger generation.

There’s never been a better time in history to have AS.