Best Hacks for Ankylosing Spondylitis

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Bathing, getting dressed, and cooking can all be a challenge when you have ankylosing spondylitis. The good news is that there are many different tools you can use to make life easier. Here, four ankylosing spondylitis advocates share their favorite tools and tricks.

For Everyday Life

Canes. “It’s a simple cane with three feet on the bottom. I’ve found that when I walk up to a counter to get something off the shelf, it’s a pain to look for a spot to lean my cane against. I just let it go and it stands on its own. I also use it to walk outside when it’s icy. It’s much easier to step down off a slippery curb with this cane than a regular cane.”

–Jayson Sacco, podcast host, Port Huron, MI

Wrist brace. “I experience flares of intense pain in my wrists that make it difficult to do activities like work. I use wrist braces to relieve pain on joints. It allows me to do things I used to have trouble with, such as type.”

–Steph Di Pardo, writer, Toronto, Ontario

Custom-fitted leg brace. “I need a leg brace on my left foot. For years, I used an over-the-counter brace, but about 2 years ago, I decided to have a custom-made one fitted for my leg. It was like trading in a Chevette for a Corvette. The quality was so much better. Best of all, most of the $1,200 cost was covered by insurance.”

–Jayson Sacco

Heated car seats. “After a hard day when my hips and back ache, I really appreciate my heated driver’s seat. It helps relieve joint pain and keeps my joints flexible. You don’t have to buy a car with heated seats, either. You can install heated seat covers.”

–Jayson Sacco

In the Bedroom

A pillow with arm rests. “My bed is essentially my office. Since I am always fatigued I use my laptop there. I use a backrest pillow with arms. It also helps prevent the back pain from unsupported sitting.”

–Steph Di Pardo

A sock slider. “I have a foot drop on my left side, which means I cannot lift it to put on my socks. I use a sock slider every morning. Basically, you place the sock on the slider kit, and slide your foot in. It works with most types of socks, too. I live alone. If I didn’t have my slider, I’d walk around sockless. I also use elastic shoelaces, which turns any pair of tennis shoes into slide-in sneakers. They have them for dress shoes, too.”

–Jayson Sacco

Homemade heating pads. “I have a homemade microwaveable bag of millet that is the length of my spine. I use it to lie on or wrap around my shoulders and reduce pain and tension. It’s larger than most store heating pads, and I don’t have to worry that I will fall asleep with it on and it will burn me.”

–Marhya Kelsch, a psychotherapist in Hayward, CA

In the Kitchen

Grip aids. “I use a gripper arm with a 3-foot extension. That way, if I drop anything, even something as small as a pill, I can use that to pick it up.”

–Jayson Sacco

Nonslip cushioned mat. “Thankfully, I still have good mobility in my wrists and hands, so I can still cook in the kitchen. I’m less steady on my feet, however, which is why a nonslip cushioned mat is so great. It helps me stay stable while I putter around.”

–David Hlavac, copywriter, Minneapolis, MN

In the Bathroom

Loofah stick. “I use it to scrub my back, feet, and lower legs. All areas that I can’t bend over to reach.”

–Jayson Sacco

Shower stool. “If I stand for a period of time I’m exhausted. This way, I can sit and wash my body and shampoo my hair without so much stress on my legs.”

–Steph Di Pardo

Hand-held shower head. “It’s a simple hack, but completely worth it. I use it when I take a shower and apply the water to sore areas like my hip joints. I follow it up once I’m out of the shower with some gentle stretches.”

–David Hlavac

For Exercise and Self-Care

Hot tub/pool. “Earlier this year, I purchased a swim spa so I can do aqua therapy at home. I got a snorkel to reduce neck and shoulder strain that made it hard to do my water exercise.”

–Marhya Kelsch

A plain old chair. “I love yoga, but since my diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, I’ve found fatigue gets in the way. Then I discovered chair yoga. I can do poses like the cat-cow stretch with some modifications.”

–Steph Di Pardo

Pressure-point massager. “These devices, which are about half the size of a walking cane, are around $30 and allow you to push on pressure points in the spine, shoulders, and back. I use it on my shoulders and rib cage near my back, where I experience the worst pain and inflammation. It helps tremendously, especially when I combine it with a topical over-the-counter heat rub.”

–David Hlavac

Back stretcher. “My 18-year old daughter, who was recently diagnosed with AS, discovered this gadget on TikTok. It provides a flexible, convex surface for stretching out the muscles in the back. I use it as soon as I get out of the shower every morning.”

–David Hlavac

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