Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that causes pain, stiffness, and even fusion of your spine. The best treatment for the condition is to be as active as possible.
Still, some activities may aggravate your symptoms instead of relieving them. This is especially true for housework. While many household chores are fine to do if you have AS, there are others you should avoid or at least modify how they’re done.
Because AS causes inflammation in your spinal joints, muscles, and hips, any activity that requires you to bend or twist your body or lift heavy objects may trigger pain. If AS has caused your joints to fuse or stiffen, your range of motion may also be compromised. This can make doing chores even more challenging. Here are several chores that may worsen AS symptoms:
Most people hunch over when they iron. This leads to poor posture. Because AS may cause your spine to fuse in a crooked position, good posture is critical. If you must iron, do it sitting on a high-backed chair with a hard surface. If you continue to hunch, place a rolled towel or lumbar support cushion behind your lower back to help keep your back straight.
Pushing a water-soaked mop back and forth across a floor is a sure-fire way to irritate already-inflamed back muscles and joints. Lugging around a water-filled bucket and wringing out the mop isn’t a cakewalk either if you have back pain.
Instead of using a traditional mop and bucket, invest in a mop with disposable cleaning pads. When mopping, take your time. Get a mop with a long handle so you won’t have to bend over.
3. Heavy-duty bathroom cleaning
Light bathroom cleaning touch-ups of the kitchen sink or countertop may be OK. But the extreme bending and scrubbing it takes to get a toilet or bathtub spick-and-span isn’t. Your best bet is to use drop-in toilet cleaners and spray shower and tub cleaners. Let the products do most of the work for you.
4. Washing dishes
Washing dishes is surprisingly strenuous on your back. Not only does it require you to stand in place for an extended period, it also makes you stoop over the sink. Using a dishwasher isn’t much better. It may keep you from standing in place too long, but a lot of bending, reaching, and twisting goes into loading and unloading dishes and putting them away.
If you can’t get out of this chore, rest one foot or knee on a stool or chair while washing dishes at a sink. Sit in a chair when loading and unloading the dishwasher.
Hauling baskets full of laundry, bending over a washing machine, and folding clothes may all set off AS pain. Try these tips to make laundry easier:
- Buy a laundry basket with wheels and a handle, or use a wagon.
- Don’t fill the basket to the brim. Move one small load at a time.
- Fold clothes while sitting at a table.
- Use a grab-and-reach tool to help you remove clothes from the washer.
Many vacuum cleaners are heavy, clunky, and difficult to lug around. And the act of vacuuming requires you to bend, twist, and push for an extended time. Vacuuming is one chore that’s best to leave to someone else. If that’s impossible, invest in a robotic vacuum or the lightest vacuum you can find that also has a long extension cord. Stand as straight as possible when vacuuming.
7. Yard work
Yard work is notorious for being hard on the backs of people in general, let alone those with AS. Trimming trees and hedges, gardening, lawn mowing, and raking leaves are all backbreaking chores.
If possible, use a lawn service to mow your lawn and trim trees and hedges. Most lawn services also offer spring and fall cleanup to remove leaves and other debris from your yard. If you must mow yourself, add a handle-extender to a push mower to make sure it’s the right height.
8. Making the bed
Comforters, bulky sheets, and blankets are heavy. Lifting them and arranging them on your bed uses a lot of muscles and requires bending. Opt for lightweight blankets. Top your mattress with a mattress cover and tuck fitted sheets around it instead of the mattress. And if it doesn’t bother you, don’t make the bed every day.
9. Grocery shopping
If you have back pain, grocery shopping can be tough at best. Not only is it difficult to reach for items on high or low shelves, but carrying groceries to and from your car can be brutal. To make this chore easier, take advantage of online ordering and store pickup, or have groceries delivered to your home. Most grocery stores offer help with bagging groceries and loading them into your vehicle. When it’s time to put groceries away, take care of cold items first and do the rest in stages. Use a grab-and-reach stick to help you put away items in high and low places.
The bottom line
Strenuous household chores are better left to someone else. Still, it’s not always easy to ask someone to take over. Although it’s ideal to avoid activities that may aggravate AS, it’s not always possible. If you must tackle every chore, approach them differently and follow these tips:
- Don’t try to clean your entire house in one day.
- Focus on heavy traffic areas or areas guests will see.
- Invest in tools to make housework easier such as a lightweight vacuum with a foot-operated power switch or a battery-operated scrubber.
- Buy cleaning tools to store on each level of your home.
- Take frequent breaks.
- 11 cleaning tips that will spare your joints. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://blog.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/cleaning-tips-minimize-joint-pain/
- Everyday living and arthritis. (2011). Retrieved from http://www.nhs.uk/ipgmedia/national/arthritis%20research%20uk/assets/everydaylivingandarthritis.pdf
- Posture and ankylosing spondylitis. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.arthritisresearchuk.org/arthritis-information/conditions/ankylosing-spondylitis/self-help-and-daily-living/posture.aspx
- When chores leave you sore. (2007, February). Retrieved from http://www.arthritis-advisor.com/issues/6_2/features/347-1.html