Exercising is one of the most important things you can do for your ankylosing spondylitis, that’s nothing new, we’ve done an article on this before.
The simplest and one of the most beneficial ways to get you moving is stretching. Simple stretches can help you reduce pain and stiffness, improve your posture and overall wellbeing. In the long term, it can help your spine to remain mobile. Don’t underestimate them.
Ideally, you should have an assessment from a physiotherapist first, who will teach you some stretching exercises specific to your needs.
Let us show you some of the most basic exercises to get your joints moving. The best part? You can easily perform most of them at home, school, work or even when you’re travelling.
First, always remember to warm up, it will increase the blood flow to your muscles and prepare your body to exercise, making it less likely that you will injure yourself. It can be something simple like marching on the spot or a brisk walk for 10 minutes.
Read? Ok, let’s get to it:
Stand with your back to the wall. Make sure your shoulders, buttocks and heels are as close to the wall as possible. Tuck your chin in and push the back of your head towards the wall. While you keep your shoulders down stretch your body as tall as possible without lifting your heels. Slowly raise both arms sideward, keeping the backs of your hands against the wall, then slowly lower them to original position. It’s like making snow angels, just way slower and on the wall. Try to keep your bottom in contact with the wall at all times. Now repeat it 5 times.
Trunk side stretch
While you stand by the wall in the same position, slowly stretch your right arm down the outside of your leg as far as you can. You should feel a comfortable stretch. Now do the same for your left arm and repeat both 3 times.
Lie down with your knees bent and with your head supported if necessary. Now tighten your stomach muscles and push your back down into the floor. Hold for a count of 5 and repeat 5 times. It’s like a way more chilled abdominal crunch. Bear in mind this is a very small movement aiming at stretching not giving you a six-pack.
Back and hip rotation
Now you are already lying on your back with your knees bent so stretch your arms out to the side. Keeping your knees together, slowly lower your knees to the right, back to the centre and then down to the left. Always try to keep your knees together and both shoulders on the floor and repeat 5 times. If you feel that opposite shoulder’s lifting then that’s far enough! Time to slowly move your knees back to the centre and down to the other side.
Sit upright on a chair in good posture and with both feet flat on the floor. Hold on to the sides of your chair seat. Turn your head to the right as far as possible without letting your shoulders turn and do the same to the left. It’s pretty much like looking around. Repeat this movement 3 times. This exercise is perfect if you sit at a desk at work. It will help with the stiffness in your neck and force you to casually check up on the person sitting next to you. Your HR department will be proud.
If you developed a positive relationship with people around you proceed to this exercise. Sit sideways on an armless chair in good posture hopefully having an interesting conversation with your neighbour. Keeping your feet firmly planted on the floor, twist your upper body towards the back of the chair and place both hands on the chair back. Use your hands to help you rotate a little further around, keeping your good posture throughout. Now you can ask for a different opinion from a person behind you. Look at you, becoming a social animal! Make sure you repeat this exercise on the opposite side.
If all that socialising didn’t work out very well go back to your original position on a chair. Move forwards so that you’re sitting almost on the edge of your chair but still feel safe. Straighten out your left leg with the heel resting on the floor. Keeping your back straight, slide your hands gently down the front of your thigh. You should feel a good stretch in the back of your thigh. Try to hold the position for 10 seconds and repeat on the right leg.
Hip flexor stretch
It’s time to get a bit more serious. This one makes you look like you don’t skip your ‘legs day’. Stand up facing the side of an armless chair and hold the chair back with your right hand. Bend your right knee and place your right shin on the seat.
Move your left foot as far forwards as possible.
Bend your left knee as much as possible, keeping a good posture and straight back. You should feel a good stretch at the front of your right hip at this point. Hold it for 10 seconds. Relax and then repeat twice, trying to stretch a little further each time. Turn around to face the other side of the chair and repeat with the opposite leg.
Good job so far, are you ready for something even more intense? Get back on the floor kneeling on all fours. Keep your hands shoulder width apart and directly under your shoulders. Keep your knees hip width apart and directly under your hips. While keeping your elbows straight throughout, tuck your head down between your arms and slowly arch your back as high as possible. Now lengthen your neck keeping your nose parallel to the floor and hollow your back as much as possible. Don’t act like a cat, be a cat! Repeat 5 times.
At this point you should already be quite well stretched and feeling good about yourself. Why not feel like a superman for a minute? Go back to your starting position for the cat stretch. Keeping your head in the same position, raise your right arm and your left leg. You are aiming to make a straight line with your body from your right hand to your left foot. Hold for 5 seconds. Return, with control, to the starting position and change to raising your left leg and right arm and repeat 3 times. Try not to fly away!
You can find all of those stretches in our NASS guidebook along with loads of other useful information worth checking out and if you enjoyed this stretching routine have a look at our Back to Action exercise program available online, in a hard copy at our shop and as an app for Android and iOS.