This week I discuss 10 natural treatments to try to alleviate pain from Axial Spondyloarthritis based upon an article from Healthline.
Hello, and welcome to this week's episode of The Axial Spondyloarthritis Podcast. How is everyone doing? I hope everyone is doing fantastic as we head into 2021 it's been a crazy 2020 I think everybody's pretty happy to put that behind and put it to bed and move on. A couple housekeeping things I want to take care of, first, if everybody would head over to spondypodcast.com and sign up for the newsletter, it'll pop up, right when you go on to the website, that would be fantastic and very much appreciated. The numbers have been growing and now that we've pushed through the New Year, let's see those numbers take off again, I have a newsletter coming out, oh, probably March ish or so. Also, if you're so inclined, click on the buy me a coffee link, drop $5 - $10 whatever it supports the show. I'm looking to change up a couple big things this upcoming year and all the support from anybody would be amazing.
So with that onto today's show, when I look at the forums on Facebook for axial spondyloarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, you know, all of them out there, I see almost across the board, the same question come up over and over and over, it says, Are there natural treatments? How do I treat this naturally? Well, first, like many episodes, I want to start off by, you know, kind of discussing what axial spondyloarthritis is. Axial spondyloarthritis, it's a form of arthritis that causes inflammation in the joints of the spine, it can come in a non-radiographic form or radiographic just means it's visible on x-rays are not visible on x-rays, the joints where the spine meet the pelvis are most affected, the condition may also affect areas where tendons and ligaments attached to bones, it may also cause inflammation in other areas of the body, such as your shoulders, your ribs, your hips, your knees, your feet, your eyes, your jaw, your bowel, and in some cases, maybe even the heart and the lungs, it really can affect your whole body, you know, your mental condition, everything.
So are there any types of products or things that you can do on a more natural basis for it? Well, that's really a major bone of contention, because we know if you've got out of control inflammation, a biologic is the main thing that will knock that down. I'm a proponent of using a biologic when you're diagnosed, if the doctor suggests it, but not everybody wants to and I want to be respectful of that. So when we look at axial spondyloarthritis, these symptoms that come out, you know, how do we treat them. Now, some of the symptoms that you're going to encounter, before we talk about treatments are that morning stiffness, that pain in the lower back before you get going, maybe you're really sore and stiff at night after you've sat down and you're not moving all that much. So some other symptoms that might come into play are loss of flexibility, spinal fusion, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, red or watery eyes, eye pain, reduced lung capacity, difficulty breathing, you know, generally just feeling unwell. And then finally, like I said, stomach and bowel problems. So although AS is progressive, you know, not everyone will experience these, you know, this is not just a list to say, you're going to get all these, you know, I myself, I have lost the flexibility, spinal fusion, I have blurred vision, red and watery eyes, I don't have constant eye pain. If I get iritis, I do. I've been really lucky and I've not had issues with any type of breathing, I breathe really well. So that's been really one of my saving graces. But I have as many of you know, and I've said before, I've had four hip replacements; the last one on my left side didn't go so well. Two nerves were damaged. So now I have really no feeling from my left knee down, and a drop foot. That's what really has made. Oh, probably the most challenging condition to deal with out of all of this is that that drop foot and that lack of control over that lower leg.
So let's talk about natural treatments for axial spondyloarthritis. Well, again, it's a chronic condition. There's no cure, but there are some treatments that can help to relieve symptoms of like the pain and the stiffness. And these treatments may not work, but may reduce flares. You know, and natural treatments may be used on their own or with traditional axial spondyloarthritis treatments. So there are 10 natural therapies that I'm going to talk about.
Number One is Stretching. This is a, I think, a must do. I do deep breathing and I tried to do stretching every morning. You know, I just sit on the edge of my bed when I get up and try to do my stretching. Some people are much more flexible, much more into doing it through yoga and different things of that nature. But stretching helps to build the flexibility may reduce some of the pain as you get going and start to stretch out everything that's been, you know, not moving throughout the evening while you rested. So consider adding some spine stretches, maybe some lower back stretches, you know, you can do this by just rotating your trunk, you know, rotate back and forth a dozen times just to get that spine moving to get everything limbered up before you get going.
Number Two, Heat Therapy. Now some people don't respond well to heat therapy, others do you know your body, you take out of these what's going to work best for you. And one way to reduce some of the pain and the stiffness is through, say like a hot water bottle or a heating blanket. Any of those, you know, on the affected area can help to reduce some of the pain. It's best for most people if it's a dry heat, but some respond well to a moist heat. Again, you're going to know your body the best. The one thing with heat therapy is do not use it without consulting with your doctor. If you've got diabetes DVT, which is deep vein thrombosis, vascular disease, and open wound, or you know dermatitis or any type of skin condition like that, then the heat therapy is only something you want to look at after you've talked with your doctor about it.
Now on the flip side of heat therapy, Number Three is Cold Therapy. Some people respond well to cold, I don't, cold seizes my body right up and is the worst thing. So for some, they might apply an ice pack a cold gel pack a bag of frozen vegetables, if that's what you have, to the painful joints to try and reduce the swelling. This might come into play more after you do some exercising. If you exercise, put that cold on, it may reduce inflammation. One thing is again; don't apply the ice for more than 20 minutes at a time. And also if you have circulation problems, consult your doctor first before using any type of cold therapy.
Number Four, Acupuncture. Acupuncture is, you know, a complimentary therapy to other medicines. That involves inserting thin needles into specific points in your skin. This is Dr activates your body's pain relieving hormones. It's controversial and that some people say at work, some don't. So really the best determinant of that is you. You try it if it works for you. That's awesome. It's something I want to try. I'm hoping this is going to be the year I try acupuncture to see if there's any type of pain relief in the neuropathy that I'm dealing with. I look forward to seeing how that goes.
Number Five, Massage Therapy. This is huge. One thing dealing with these lockdowns that I'm in Michigan, so a lot of stuff is closed; I haven't been able to get a massage. I love the massage. I've gone in and booked the times before in total, a person doing it, just please work on my spine and lower back. That's it, because it feels so good. Massage can help you relax. It might also help you feel more flexible or loose, so that you can exercise or stretch afterwards. But it can also cause pain. If you have any tender points along your spine, I don't necessarily when mine is done. If they massage like my shoulders or neck at all that causes me long pain. So I kind of tell them to stay away from that just to focus like from my shoulders down across my spine. And really my hips and like the lower part of the spine work meets the hip bones, that's for me the best. So just be aware of that. Talk to your misuse about what is affecting you to the good and the bad, let him or her know, so that they can do more of what helps you and less of what hurts you. And then, you know, give it a shot. Again, it's like acupuncture, some people it helps some it doesn't.
Number Six is Movement. This is really an interesting one because we all know the more we sit, generally, the worse we feel. And that's really whether you have as or not our bodies are built to move, the more movement you can get into your body in any given day. Go for it. If at all possible, get a Fitbit or some type of step tracker, set a goal and try and exceed it. My original goal was 2500 steps. I found that I was hitting about 3000 steps a day. So I bumped it and set my minimum goal at 3000 steps a day. Some days I hit it, somebody don't. Yesterday was crazy. I was all over the place. And I hit over 6000 steps. So I was ecstatic about that. That's the first time I've hit that many in a long time. So again, the more you sit, the stiffer you're likely to feel. Get up, move around, and stretch regularly. You have a desk job, you know, talk with your boss. And let them know you need to get up and move around, whether it be every hour, or you just need to be able to get up and physically move around.
Number Seven, and this ties right in with number six movement is Exercise. We've talked about this a lot, any type of exercise is better than none. Look at the Yoga for AS page on Facebook, do yoga, if you're afraid of anything high impact, maybe Pilates, if you have access to do that, swimming, if you can swim, that's one of the better things that you can do, because it takes the weight off of your bones and your hips and everything, and allows you to get the breathing and the movements and the resistance that ties it all together. Strength exercise, everybody's going to be different. You know, if you can use a weight, that’s great. I've mentioned before that with me, I do a lot of push ups, and try to do some walking, if you can't just get up and get bags and put like big, canned goods on them. And and start with those. If your goal is to get somewhere, figure out the little step by step by steps to get there and reach out for assistance. Reach out, there's some great videos on some of the Facebook, Ankylosing Spondylitis forums that talk about exercise, there's a lot of help there for you. So just let anybody know. And I'm sure you'll find somebody who's willing to at least start to work with you. And help.
Number Eight is one that I was not familiar with the term, it's called the Alexander Technique. And that's practicing good posture is critical with as since it can affect our backs. And you really don't necessarily want to wear a back brace, because that weakens the back. And you want to actually build the back up. So the Alexander Technique teaches you to be aware of your posture throughout the day, there is a website, I'll have a link to on that, feel free to review it with your doctor, see if it makes sense for you.
Number Nine, TENS Therapy, that's the Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation, TENS Therapy, and that uses an electric current to manage your pain, you hook it up to you. And wherever you're having pain, you send that electric current through, and it addresses it that way. I've had a TENS machine before, it didn't help me a ton. But I know other people it helps immensely. So again, it's one of these things where you don't have to use all some work for me, some didn't. But if you're going to get a TENS machine, talk with a physical therapist about the proper way to stimulate the nerves, and the proper way to use it. And yes, a physical therapist or your doctor, you know, get somebody help and how to use that TENS therapy.
Finally, number 10, this is so important for not only life in general, but for those of us with AS is Quit Smoking. Smokers, and they say especially men, I'm not sure where that came from, are at a greater risk for spine damage from AS than non-smokers. So quitting smoking not only helps you reduce AS damage, but also improves your overall health. It's not easy. I watched my dad who developed esophageal cancer, most likely from smoking, get his esophagus removed, looked like a you know a mess out of surgery and still couldn't quit smoking. I know that's one of the most difficult things. But there are a lot of smoke cessation programs and many work programs offer smoke cessation programs. So there is support out there. Please reach out and get the help that you need.
And then finally, you might look at some natural ways to improve sleep. We all know that if you get a good night's sleep that can also help to alleviate some of the pain. The problem is getting that good night's sleep, the pain usually wakes me up in the middle of the night keeps me tossing and turning. And I don't always get a restful sleep, I haven't had one now probably in three weeks. As I prep for moving, my brain just doesn't want to shut off. So your mattress should keep your spine straight when you lie on your side. You also your mattress should allow your spine to have a curve like the S curve when you lie on your back. So you know things might consider and again, everybody's going to be different. If you ask 100 people for 100 theories on mattresses, you're going to get 300 mattress recommendations. But here's some just things you might keep in mind. Use a medium to firm mattress, which can mold to the shape of your spine. Use only enough pillows to keep your head aligned to your neck aligned. Use heat therapy before bed to help reduce any of the long-term pain from sleeping. And then try not to sleep with a pillow between your legs. So those type of things are very, very good to try and consider because we all know what the traditional treatments are the ibuprofen and naproxen the aspirin corticosteroids, the demarcates, you know, using both the biologics as well as the more traditional, like the sulfa, ziens, and the methotrexate. So all of those are available and generally will work. But for many, you want to use those as a second line. I personally think you bring a biologic in, and then use the natural treatments to alleviate any pain, but the biologic is going to unmask where the real pain is, and help to combat some of it. But again, that's a personal decision that you have to make.
So with that said, I thank everybody again, for listening. It's just amazing 105 countries that this show has been listened to. And that just blows my mind that we're pushing up on almost 50,000 downloads of the show. And I'd love to see it get to 100,000 this year. And the only way that's going to happen is I need your help. Go back, download the whole catalogue. Listen to all the past shows and more importantly, if you know somebody with AS, Axial Spondyloarthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, non radiographic, if you know somebody that's got this, or you have a family member, that questions what you're doing, how you're feeling, doesn't understand, share the show with them, send them a link to my website, say here, listen to this. This is what I'm going through. This is what I'm dealing with; help them to understand so that they can help you when you need it. Because there's nothing worse. I grew up this way, there's nothing worse than having family that either doesn't believe you, or doesn't understand. So there's such a plethora of information available now. If if people are not listening to you, because it's Oh, that's just so and so complaining again. Let my voice be your voice, share the show with them, say listen to this. This is how I feel. This is what you know what Jayson's saying is what I'm dealing with. And let me help you to better get along better be understood by your family. Again, thank you for listening. You don't know how much everybody means to me. Please feel free to drop me a message. And I would love it. When you go out to the website. It's not on the mobile that I know of at this point. But if you go out to spondee podcast, calm down in the lower part portion is a microphone. Click on that. Leave me a brief message. I'd love to hear from you. And with that, have a great week. And always, always make sure you're taking care of yourself so that you can be the best that you can be. We'll talk to you later. See ya.