The cornerstone of treatment for pain and stiffness associated with spondylitis includes medication, physical therapy/exercise and good posture habits. Doctors prescribe medications to help alleviate symptoms. Once pain and inflammation are reduced, proper exercise is essential to regain and/or maintain good posture and mobility.
Practicing good posture techniques impacts the way a person with spondylitis looks and feels.
People with spondylitis often are painfully aware of the strains imposed by gravity. A vicious pain-poor posture cycle begins because of a tendency to bend over when experiencing pain in the spine, further increasing the amount of strain on the spine.
Bone fusion does not occur in everyone with spondylitis, yet fusing in a non-upright position is a valid patient concern. It is encouraging to know that we can influence the pattern of fusion through good postural habits.
Hold your head in a balanced manner over the trunk in a sitting or standing position. The chin should be horizontal and parallel to the floor, drawn back slightly and centered. Try to stand, walk and sit "tall" at all times.
Back Against the Wall
Within view of a full-size mirror, stand against a wall to check your posture. Place your heels about four inches away from the wall. Your buttocks and shoulders should be as close to the wall as possible- even touching lightly. Don't strain. Hold for five seconds, relax, and do it again. It is important to keep a record of spine alignment (measurement from the back of the head to the wall), and this might be a good time to check for this. Report any changes to your doctor.
(This is the best exercise for maintaining erect posture.) Lie face down on a firm surface, such as the floor or a firm bed. If unable to lie flat in this position, place a pillow under your chest and a folded towel under your forehead. Start slowly; maybe you can only accomplish prone lying at first for a minute or two. It's often helpful to do this posture training after a warm bath or shower or whenever the body is warmed up. The head may be positioned directly downward, resting on the hands, or turned to the left or right, or alternated during the course of twenty minutes.
- Give someone close to you permission to nag. Agree on a code word. Soon you won't need reminding not to slouch.
- Try sleeping on a firm, but not hard, bed to maintain a good, non-bent resting posture at night. Avoid using a pillow, if possible, to prevent pain from over-extension of the neck and spine. Some people find that a small folded towel can take the place of a pillow.
- Splints, braces, and corsets are generally not advised for spondylitis patients.
- Restorative sleep is most important. This may mean side sleeping for some people. If this is your experience, daily prone lying is even more critical to your good posture.