Category Archives: exercise

Managing Ankylosing Spondylitis for Less Than $75


Managing Ankylosing SpondylitisI’ve spent a lot of money and done a lot of testing on myself when it comes to exercise equipment and physical therapy. Sure it adds up, but I can’t even hope to express how expensive my pain already feels. Over the years, I’ve narrowed down my equipment list to just $65 worth of must-haves for managing ankylosing spondylitis.

When it comes to managing your pain, there’s a lot of information out there about current pharmaceutical options. Unfortunately, those tend to involve a LOT of complications and vary from person-to-person. There’s also a lot of anecdotal evidence that a strict diet can help control AS inflammation, which makes a lot of sense: garbage in, garbage out, right? But even diet doesn’t appear to be a universal fix for ankylosing spondylitis.

So the one way to fight against the pain of ankylosing spondylitis that everyone agrees on and you’ll keep coming back to? Physical exercise focused on maintaining your range of motion.

If your ankylosing spondylitis tortures you on a daily basis, why not turn the tables on it? With the equipment below, I now manage my pain on my own terms and so can you. As with all things related to ankylosing spondylitis, please make sure to consult your doctor before you do anything drastic.

Here’s the $65 list of torture devices I use regularly to fight my way back to normalcy:

Foam Roller – $19

Foam RollerMy foam roller was the first piece of exercise I equipment that I bought specifically for managing ankylosing spondylitis. It also happens to be my most utilized.

In the past, I was paying a lot for regular massages when my flare ups were bad. On a bad day, no amount of money was too much to relieve the tightness in my back. My foam roller, though, has me rethinking that. It’s not going to be as thorough as a masseuse, but regular use of it almost eliminates the need for one.

There are a lot of options for foam rollers, but the first one I ever bought only cost me $19. And it will get the job done for you, too.

Connective tissue, known as fascia, plays a vital role in your health and comfort with ankylosing spondylitis. Naomi over at the Training with AS blog has a quick review of it, if you’re interested. To go more in-depth on foam rolling and fascia, Impossible.com has a great write up, too.

If you’re interested in getting a foam roller and have a smartphone, the MoveWell app [iTunes Link] is a great way to start. I’m convinced the foam roller is must-have equipment for ankylosing spondylitis sufferers.

Pull-Up Bar – $19

Pull Up BarIn my youth as a 90lb wimp, I was never able to complete a pull-up in gym class in middle school. Instead, my teacher had me do a dead hang from the bar for as long as I could. Years later, I STILL cringe when I remember hanging awkwardly in view of all the girls I had crushes on in that class. Now, decades later, I find a lot of value in being able to just hang from a pull-up bar in the privacy of my own home.

Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Body, recently said that he dealt with back injuries by doing dead hangs. I’m a big fan of Tim’s work, so I figured I’d give it a shot. At $21 dollars for a pull-up bar I can hang from my door frame, this one’s a no-brainer for helping find some relief. Within the first week of doing 3 minute hangs, I noticed a significant difference in my lower back.

If you’re interested in this piece of equipment, make sure that you read the reviews. You will be putting your full weight on this thing, after all.

Lacrosse Ball – $6

Lacrosse BallLike the foam roller, a lacrosse ball is a creative self-massage torture device. For $6, you can have a hard rubber ball shipped directly to your door that can be used for highly targeted relief.

Foot and heel problems run rampant among ankylosing spondylitis sufferers. Just place your weight on the ball with your foot and roll it around. It was difficult at first, but it has provided me amazing relief at the end of a bad arthritis day.

It also comes in handy for family members who are stuck giving me back rubs. Using the lacrosse ball on the knots in your back instead of their fingers is a little easier on their hands.

Not too bad for the cheapest item on the list, eh?

Balance Board – $20

Balance BoardA key symptom of ankylosing spondylitis is inflammation of the sacroiliac joint. It turns the simple act of walking from Point A to Point B into a painful trek.

My ankylosing spondylitis manifested in two uncomfortably swollen knees in addition to my pelvis pain. Over the years of disuse, I watched my leg muscles atrophy over time. I began to worry I would never be able to walk with confidence again. Half the time, I felt like a properly-targeted gust of wind could blow me off my feet.

Buying a $20 balance board, I was able to gain back my confidence with regular practice. It’s as simple as just standing on the board for 10 or 15 minutes straight. I sometimes do this while I’m washing my dishes or watching my favorite television shows.

When done on a daily basis, I began to have more confidence in my abilities and found walking so much easier. If you’re in a similar situation, I would definitely recommend a balance board.

There’s an old saying that ‘investing in yourself is the best investment you’ll ever make,’ and I’ve found that to be true on every level, not just when it comes to managing ankylosing spondylitis. While this list is by no means exhaustive, these are my four favorite pieces of exercise and physical therapy equipment in my home.

If you have any suggestions for equipment I should try out, let me know in the comments below!