The best hacks for ankylosing spondylitis

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Bathing, dressing, and cooking can be challenging 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

sticks. “It’s a simple walking stick with three feet on the bottom. I’ve found it tedious trying to find a place to lean my cane on when walking to a counter to pick something off the shelf. I just let it go and it stands by itself. I also use it to run outside when it’s freezing. It is much easier to get off a slippery curb with this stick than with a regular stick.”

– Jayson Sacco, Podcast Host, Port Huron, MI

wrist brace. “I experience intense pain in my wrists that makes it difficult to do activities like work. I use wrist wraps to relieve pain in the joints. It allows me to do things I used to have trouble with, like typing.”

–Steph Di Pardo, writer, Toronto, Ontario

Custom made leg brace. “I need a leg brace on my left foot. For years I have used an over the counter orthosis but about 2 years ago I decided to have a custom made one for my leg. It was like trading 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 Sacko

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

– Jayson Sacko

In the bedroom

A pillow with armrests. “My bed is essentially my office. Since I’m always tired, I use my laptop there. I use a back pillow with arms. It also helps prevent back pain from unsupported sitting.”

– Steph di Pardo

A sock pusher. “I have a foot drop on my left side, which means I can’t lift it to put my socks on. I use a sock pusher every morning. Basically you place the sock on top of the slider kit and slide your foot in. It also works with most types of socks. I live alone. If I didn’t have my slider, I’d be walking around without socks. I also use elastic laces that turn any pair of tennis shoes into slip-in sneakers. They also have them for dress shoes.”

– Jayson Sacko

Homemade heating pad. “I have a homemade microwavable bag of millet that’s as long as my spine. I use it to lie on my shoulders or wrap it around my shoulders to relieve pain and tension. It’s larger than most commercial heating pads and I don’t have to worry about falling asleep with it on and burning myself.”

–Marhya Kelsch, a psychotherapist in Hayward, CA

In the kitchen

grip aids. “I use a gripper arm with a 3 foot extension. So if I drop something, even something as small as a pill, I can use it to pick it up.”

– Jayson Sacko

Non-slip padding mat. “Luckily, I still have good mobility in my wrists and hands, so I can still cook in the kitchen. However, I’m less sure of my feet, which is why a non-slip cushion mat is so great. It helps me stay stable while I fiddle around.”

–David Hlavac, Copywriter, Minneapolis, MN

In the bathroom

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

– Jayson Sacko

shower stool. “If I stand for a long time, I’m exhausted. That way I can sit down and wash my body and shampoo my hair without putting so much strain on my legs.”

– Steph di Pardo

hand shower head. “It’s a simple hack, but definitely worth it. I use it when I shower and apply the water to painful areas like my hip joints. As soon as I get out of the shower, I do some gentle stretches.”

–David Hlavac

For exercise and self-care

hot tub/swimming pool “Earlier this year I bought a swim spa so I can do aquatherapy at home. I got a snorkel to reduce neck and shoulder strain that was making it difficult for me to do my water exercises.”

– Marhya Kelsch

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

– Steph di Pardo

pressure point massager. “These devices, which are about half the size of a walking stick, cost about $30 and allow you to press on pressure points in the spine, shoulders and back. I use it on my shoulders and chest near my back where I have the worst pain and inflammation. It helps tremendously, especially when combined with a topical over-the-counter heat rub.”

–David Hlavac

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

–David Hlavac


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The best hacks for ankylosing spondylitis
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