Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) affects hundreds of thousands of adults each year. It affects men more than women, however—about three times as many. Unlike a lot of other health conditions that show up in midlife, ankylosing spondylitis usually appears between the ages of 15 and 30.
This disease is troubling, in that the body triggers the condition itself. AS is a type of inflammatory arthritis. It is what medical experts call an autoimmune disease, meaning the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the body. In the case of AS, joints in the spine are attacked by the immune system. This causes a great deal of pain and stiffness throughout the back.
Symptoms usually appear at the base of the spine, right where the spine joins the pelvis at the sacroiliac joints. Eventually, inflammation spreads up the spine. When the disease becomes severe, the whole spine is affected.
The body will try to repair itself at this stage of the disease. Unfortunately, this can result in the bones of the spine fusing together. Now, the spine is inflexible and stiff and is at great risk for fracturing.
There’s no real cure for AS. However, an early diagnosis can greatly improve the chances of keeping the condition from progressing further. By taking control of AS, people are able to continue to lead active and full lives.
Here’s one suggestion for preventing AS from progressing and becoming worse: try some Pilates, Mckenzie and Heckscher exercises. These three modes of physical training were tested in a recent trial. A research team wanted to find out if Pilates, Mckenzie or Heckscher could improve pulmonary function in patients with AS, as well as influence disease activity.
The researchers recruited 96 patients with AS for the study. Exercise programs consisted of 50-minute sessions performed three times per week for almost a year. The researchers conducted tests to measure pain symptoms, chest expansion and vital capacity, along with disease progression.
The researchers found that the three exercise techniques significantly improved pain outcomes and lumbar spine mobility. The researchers recommend that these three exercises be used in the management of AS and to better control pulmonary function.
Unfamiliar with Pilates? It’s a series of exercises that tries to develop the body in a balanced way by improving core strength, flexibility and awareness. Benefits claimed by people who perform Pilates include feeling stronger, longer and leaner, with a greater ease of movement. McKenzie exercises were developed to lengthen the spine and thereby reduce pain symptoms. The theory is that by moving pain from the extremities to the spine, pain can be centralized and better treated.
If you are having trouble with your spine and experiencing pain symptoms, it may be beneficial to explore these three training modalities. Ideally, doing a little of each will likely reap the most rewards in terms of better physical function. However, even adopting one of these exercise programs should help to relieve chronic and lingering pain symptoms.
Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Rosu, M.O., et al., “Effects of Pilates, McKenzie and Heckscher training on disease activity, spinal motility and pulmonary function in patients with ankylosing spondylitis: a randomized controlled trial.”Rheumatol Int. Sept 26, 2013.
“Ankylosing Spondylitis,” The Spondylitis Association of America web site; http://www.spondylitis.org/about/as.aspx, last accessed Oct. 2, 2013.