I knew there was something wrong with my back when I realised I couldn’t strut and bend my musculoskeletal stuff like those kids in Fame.
It all started in my teens. Excruciating pain in my spine meant bye-bye to backflips and hello to walking on eggshells until I found out that I had a curious sounding disease – even many doctors didn’t know about – that improves with exercise and gets worse with rest.
It’s called Ankylosing Spondylitis, which is a bit of a gob-full so it’s often shortened to AS or Anky what?
AS is a form of arthritis that primarily inflames the joints of the spine and the connective soft tissues. It’s systemic (whole body) so other joints, even the eyes and organs can get roped into the inflammatory fest too.
The culprit is a malfunctioning immune system, which means I put-put along misfiring off only three cylinders in general, but the real damage is done by the cycle of inflammatory attacks that can lead to bone fusion.
Does it hurt? ……hurrrrrrm do werewolves howl at the moon?
Speaking of which, Werewolves need to get a grip. Their pain only lasts a few minutes while they go through musculoskeletal change once every lunar cycle. It’s a well known fact among us Anky Whats that Werewolves are wusses.
Unlike dealing with werewolves, there is no silver-bullet answer to managing the pain from AS. But with some life adjustments, the right treatment and a support structure, I’ve got it under control.
Here’s what works best for me – please read my disclaimer first! Each one is a notch down on the pain volume dial and they all worked together to help me get back on track, on top of a mountain and feeling good. Owwwwww.
Exercise is king for me
I love challenges but overdoing it can exacerbate pain. I started out with small regular workouts building my endurance slowly.
I eat a healthy balanced diet
Even people without chronic conditions feel crap when they eat crap. (Note to self: Drink less wine).
I get a good nights sleep
Sleep restores the body and fights fatigue. I got advice from my GP about “Sleep hygiene”
I avoid stress at all costs
Research says stress and anxiety creates tighter muscles, which are known to exacerbate pain.
Chairs are evil
Sitting exacerbates AS and I get pain relief with movement. Following the dramatics of Kim Kardashian’s split ends, broken nails and failed relationships is not in my best interest. I find there is always a bright side to these things.
Changing the record
According to studies concentrating my brain on the pain makes it feel worse because pain loves attention. So I talk about the good stuff in my life because – let’s fast forward the science stuff again – the ‘feel good’ factor produces a chemical in the brain that scientists believe helps to alleviate pain. In other words, swapping the conversation from bad back to mountain treks gives me a double whammy pain reducing effect.
I do what makes me feel good
It’s not all about running up hills and chasing endorphins. Science says anything that activates the reward centre in your brain such as music can do it. James Brown can make everyone feel good.
Beware of leeches who feed off the vulnerable by selling their fake promises. If you’re one of them, don’t bother leaving a link to one of your 100% guaranteed three-minute miracle cures in my comments thread.
This is especially for you.