The exact cause of ankylosing spondylitis is not known, and there’s currently no cure. Treatment focuses on relieving pain and joint stiffness as well as preventing future complications like fused vertebrae.

A combination of exercise, medications, and dietary changes can help manage ankylosing spondylitis. Surgery is usually only required in severe cases.

Keep reading to learn about six treatments used to manage ankylosing spondylitis symptoms.

Low impact exercises and stretching may help ease symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis by strengthening and mobilizing your joints. A physiotherapist can help you develop a personalized exercise program.

Some of the most effective exercises for ankylosing spondylitis include:

  • swimming
  • aquatic exercise
  • yoga
  • walking
  • tai chi
  • lifting weights
  • Pilates
  • cycling

You can find information about specific exercises for managing ankylosing spondylitis on the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS) website.

Eating a nutrient-rich diet can potentially help reduce inflammation and alleviate your symptoms. Go here to learn more about the most beneficial ankylosing spondylitis foods.

Foods to eat

  • foods high in omega-3 fatty acids
    • flaxseed
    • walnuts
    • fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel
    • soy, canola, or flaxseed oil
  • fruits and veggies
  • high fiber foods

Foods to avoid

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are the first-line medication for treating ankylosing spondylitis. They help manage pain and inflammation.

According to a 2019 study, no particular NSAID is known to be most efficient. NSAID treatment is trial and error and based on your previous history with NSAIDs.

NSAIDs that may be used include:

  • Advil, Motrin (ibuprofen)
  • Arthrotec (diclofenac and misoprostol)
  • Celebrex (celecoxib)
  • Indocin (indomethacin)
  • Mobic (meloxicam)
  • Naprosyn, Aleve (naproxen)
  • Voltaren (diclofenac)

DMARDs are drugs that relieve pain and stiffness by decreasing immune activity. They’re widely used to treat arthritis and sometimes used as an alternative to NSAIDs for ankylosing spondylosis.

Their effectiveness is thought to be limited. A 2020 study found no evidence that they slow ankylosing spondylosis progression.

Biological treatments, or biologics, are a type of DMARD created from living organisms.

Seven types of biological treatments are FDA approved to treat ankylosing:

  • Tumor necrosis factor blockers
    • adalimumab
    • certolizumab
    • etanercept
    • infliximab
    • golimumab
  • Interleukin-17 inhibitors
    • ixekizumab
    • secukinumab

Corticosteroids are a class of drug that decreases inflammation. Corticosteroids injected into an inflamed joint are often prescribed for short-term pain relief. They’re usually limited to three injections per year to minimize the risk of side effects.

Most people with ankylosing spondylitis do not need surgery unless they have severe loss of mobility or pain. Surgical options for ankylosing spondylitis include: