Patients with ankylosing spondylitis, a condition that causes stiffness and immobility in the spine, experience decreased flexibility in their lower back. As the condition progresses, walking and standing become increasingly difficult.

To maintain a smooth daily life, an appropriate exercise regimen, along with medication to relieve pain and stiffness and prevent spinal deformity, is essential.

In Korea, a team of four rehabilitation medicine specialists and four rheumatology experts, in line with the recommendations of the Korean Society for Sports Science and Medicine and the Korean Rheumatology Society, have developed exercise guidelines that are tailored to the domestic reality.

At the Korean Society for Sports Science and Medicine’s spring conference on April 8th, the two societies stressed the importance of exercises that maintain the “mobility” of the spine and joints. They advised that consistency is more important than quantity and that patients should perform exercises such as bending down, looking up, chin tucks, head turns, side bends, and alternating knee pulls, within the range where there is no pain.

It is also crucial to improve “flexibility” by stretching the large muscle groups connected to the spine. The two societies stated that “stretching large muscle groups and increasing their length is necessary to prevent abnormal posture of the spine” and that “it is recommended to perform them immediately after warming up, maintain the posture for about 30 seconds, and feel a slight resistance.” Flexibility exercises include stretching the adductor and gluteal muscles, hamstring stretches, calf stretches, piriformis muscle stretches, and stretches of the muscles around the shoulders.

Breathing exercises are also essential to maintain the flexibility of the chest and improve exercise capacity. Again, consistency is more important than quantity. Keep your arms down and expand your chest as much as possible while inhaling and exhaling slowly. You can also expand further by lifting your arms up in a V shape while taking a deep breath.

Resistance exercises that improve muscle strength are also recommended because reduced muscle strength leads to reduced physical activity and impaired physical function. Use weights that are set as low as possible and perform exercises at an intensity that allows you to repeat each movement at least 12 times. Perform these exercises 2-3 times a week and rest the next day.

Sports that carry a high risk of falling, such as wrestling, should be avoided. Instead, exercises that can be done lying down, such as swimming or cycling, are preferred.

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