Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Ankylosing Spondylitis: Care Instructions
Facebook Tweet Share

Main Content

Ankylosing Spondylitis: Care Instructions

Your Care Instructions

Ankylosing spondylitis (say "ang-kill-LOH-sing spawn-duh-LY-tus") is a type of arthritis. It causes pain and stiffness in your neck and back. In some people, it also affects the chest, joints, or eyes.

This problem is different for everyone. You may find that your pain comes and goes. Or maybe you can't move your back or neck very well.

Sometimes the joints in the spine grow together over time. This is called fusion. If this happens, your body may bend forward in a fixed position.

If you do exercises, you will be able to move better and reduce stiffness. Exercises can also help your posture and slow the progress of the disease. You may also want to try physiotherapy.

Medicine can also help with pain and swelling.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take medicines for pain and swelling exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • If your doctor says it is okay, try some exercises to keep your joints moving well.
  • Ask your doctor about other activities and exercise. If your doctor says it is okay, you may want to take yoga or Pilates classes. These can help make your belly, back, and hips strong.
  • You may want to try a cane or walker. These can help reduce pain when you walk.
  • Keep good posture. It can help keep your spine straighter. Try to lie on your stomach a few times a day to keep your spine and hips extended. Sleep on a firm mattress. And use a small pillow that supports your neck.
  • Follow your doctor's advice about physiotherapy. A physiotherapist can move your joints to improve their motion. He or she can also show you how to stretch your joints. You may also learn exercises to do at home. And you may learn how to use heat or ice to help pain and swelling.
  • Get regular eye examinations. These can check for an eye problem called iritis that may happen with this condition.
  • Do not smoke. People with this condition are at risk for lung infections. And smoking can make it harder to breathe. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms in your arms, legs, chest, belly, or buttocks. Symptoms may include:
    • Numbness or tingling.
    • Weakness.
    • Pain.
  • You lose bladder or bowel control.
  • You have bad eye pain and your eyes are red and sensitive to light.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You are not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter R403 in the search box to learn more about "Ankylosing Spondylitis: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.