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Life Hacks for Spondylitis

Updated on January 27, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H.

Life hacks for spondylitis include different tips and tricks that make everyday life with the condition more manageable. Spondylitis is a form of arthritis that causes symptoms like chronic back and joint pain, which might make it difficult to engage in activities like bathing, cooking, and walking. The unpredictability of spondylitis symptoms and flare-ups may also affect quality of life.

Members of MySpondylitisTeam, the social network for people living with spondylitis, often discuss life hacks that improve their energy, pain levels, and overall lives.

“I find that using heat helps with the pain sometimes,” wrote one member. “I use a microwave-heated wheat bag that wraps around my neck.”

There are a variety of life hacks from health professionals and people living with spondylitis that may prove useful in navigating life with the condition. They are applicable for different types of spondylitis, including ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, and axial spondyloarthritis.

Household Hacks

Chronic pain and immobility due to spondylitis may make regular household activities, like using the toilet, bathing, cooking, and cleaning, more difficult. There are different assistive devices and tips to help with household activities.

Assistive Devices

Assistive devices can help you accomplish different activities around the house. Here are some ideas for using assistive devices when tasks are difficult due to spondylitis pain, stiffness, or immobility:

  • Try using a grabber or reacher tool for picking things up off the floor or for other activities like getting dressed.
  • Use tongs or a damp cloth to open jars.
  • Use a glove with bristles when washing dishes in the sink.
  • Put a cushioned floor mat by the stove and sink.
  • Use soft-grip, wide-handled cooking utensils like tongs and spatulas.
  • Keep a cane or walker near the bed.
  • Use a robot vacuum or a lightweight traditional vacuum.
  • Put blocks under sofas and chairs to make them higher and easier to sit on.

Assistive devices can be handy in the bathroom for using the toilet and bathing. One MySpondylitisTeam member wrote, “I have a higher toilet and it seems to help.” Another said, “I now have grab rails, an extra banister, a perching stool, frames around the toilets, and a higher toilet seat.”

Cooking Tips

Members of MySpondylitisTeam and others with arthritis have shared their tips for cooking and preparing food despite arthritis pain. If you live with a partner, family, or roommates, don’t be afraid to ask them for assistance in the kitchen and whether they would like to split cooking responsibilities with you.

There are also cooking tools designed to make preparing healthy meals easier and quicker. “I’m thankful for the crockpot. It makes meal prep a breeze and saves energy. Just dump in your ingredients, turn it on, and sit back down,” wrote one member.

Preparing meals ahead of time and refrigerating or freezing them will help save you time and energy throughout the week. Another MySpondylitisTeam member wrote, “My hack is to always purchase and prepare more food than necessary. This way, I cook extra and then plan leftovers to have available for my most painful days.”

Cleaning Tips

Cleaning is another household activity that may be difficult to manage with spondylitis symptoms. Some cleaning tips include:

  • Clean the house one room at a time. Rest when you get tired.
  • Keep cleaning products in the bathrooms and kitchen so you won’t need to carry them around the house. Or, try using a wheeled cart to transport cleaning supplies.
  • Transfer cleaning supplies like laundry soap from large to smaller containers so they are easier to handle.
  • Soak dishes in the sink before washing them.

Pain Relief Hacks

Because the main symptoms of spondylitis are pain and stiffness in the back, joints, and neck, tips for pain relief and management are valuable. Members of MySpondylitisTeam often discuss the ways they cope with spondylitis pain, in addition to following medical advice and using other treatment options.

Heat Therapy

Heat therapy involves applying heat to an affected area of the body that is painful or stiff. Heat is a complementary therapy that helps loosen stiff joints and relieves aches by increasing circulation to injured tissues.

Members of MySpondylitisTeam often discuss the benefits of heat therapy through the use of hot tubs, baths, and showers.

“I have a hot tub, and it is well worth it! Helps me every time I have a flare-up,” wrote one member. Another member said, “I can’t stress enough how much hot tub therapy helps people with ankylosing spondylitis pain or any type of arthritis … I feel pain-free for about a week.”

If you don’t have access to a hot tub at a local pool or gym, a warm bath or shower at home can be just as beneficial for pain relief. A warm bath with Epsom salts helps soothe joint and muscle aches.

Devices like electric heating pads are useful for targeted pain relief. Limit use to 20 minutes at a time. “My daughter has an electric heat pad and I use that during the day when my back is too bad to move without pain,” wrote a member of MySpondylitisTeam.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy reduces blood flow and helps decrease inflammation in joints and muscles. Some people use cold therapy alone or in combination with heat therapy. One member said, “I use ice packs when my back is inflamed. Sometimes, I switch between hot and cold.”

Ice or cold packs should not be used for more than 20 minutes at a time and should not be applied directly to the skin. Use a towel as a protective layer between the skin and an ice pack.

In addition to ice packs, cooling creams may aid in pain relief. “I sit with ice packs on my back. I also use Biofreeze roll-on sometimes. Both do help somewhat with the pain,” wrote one MySpondylitisTeam member.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a useful treatment method for spondylitis symptoms. It helps improve flexibility and strength and can also help relieve pain. Movement, in general, has been found to help reduce pain in people with different types of spondylitis.

Some physical therapists specialize in arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and back pain, and they will know specific techniques and exercises to help with spondylitis pain. One MySpondyltiisTeam member said, “I am always in pain, but my physical therapist does pressure point therapy. It helps me find relief when nothing else has helped.”

Other pain relief hacks for spondylitis include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage (including massage pillows)
  • Over-the-counter CBD oils or creams

Everyday Life Hacks

Everyday life may be more challenging on days when spondylitis symptoms like pain and fatigue flare-up. MySpondylitisTeam members and experts have tips for making everyday life, work, and sleep more manageable.

Sleeping

Getting quality sleep can be difficult with spondylitis. It may be challenging to find a comfortable position and to stay asleep throughout the night.

“I put a pillow between my knees in bed — it stops me from rolling onto my stomach, which obviously isn’t good for back pain and eases the pain at the lower end of my back,” wrote a MySpondylitisTeam member.

Another member talked about the importance of a quality mattress and pillow, saying, “I could not do without my memory foam mattress and pillow. Just got a duck-down lightweight quilt and it’s so comfortable and light on my body.”

Other hacks for sleeping with spondylitis include the following:

  • Try different types of pillows like tri-core or wedge pillows to support the neck and spine.
  • Use an electric blanket or heated mattress pad to keep your joints relaxed during the night.
  • Remember to take necessary pain medications before bed.
  • Try sleep meditations, available via streaming sites and through various mobile apps.
  • Sleep in a recliner if you cannot get comfortable in bed.

Sitting and Working From Home

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has made working from home the new normal, there are some life hacks for when you need to sit at a desk and work for a prolonged period of time. Movement is important to prevent stiffness with spondylitis, especially in the lower back, and there are several hacks to keep moving and retain good posture while working at a desk.

A member of MySpondylitisTeam said, “I just bought an exercise bike/desk called FlexiSpot so that I can pedal slowly while I’m working from home. It has made a big difference after one week, and it encourages me to sit up straight.”

Other hacks for staying comfortable and mobile while sitting at a desk include:

  • Buy a treadmill to put at your desk to move while you work.
  • Try a standing desk or convertible laptop stand.
  • Buy a comfortable, ergonomic chair or seat cushion.
  • Raise your feet while sitting with a footstool.
  • Take frequent breaks to stand, walk, and do gentle stretches.

For additional hacks and other ideas for making life with spondylitis more manageable, consult your health care provider or rheumatologists, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.

Find Your Team

The best tips for life with spondylitis come from other people living with the condition. MySpondylitisTeam is the social network for people with spondylitis. On MySpondylitisTeam, more than 76,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with spondylitis.

Do you have any life hacks that make living with spondylitis more manageable? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Elizabeth Wartella, M.P.H. is an Associate Editor at MyHealthTeam. She holds a Master's in Public Health from Columbia University and is passionate about spreading accurate, evidence-based health information. Learn more about her here.

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