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13 Simple Spondyloarthritis Exercises for Better Posture

Written by Alison Channon
Updated on October 12, 2023

The Spondylitis Association of America recommends four kinds of exercises for people living with spondyloarthritis: stretching, aerobics, strengthening, and balance. Strengthening the back muscles and improving your posture can help you better manage the inflammatory back pain caused by the various types of spondyloarthritis, including axial spondyloarthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.1

Regular exercise, either at home or through physical therapy, can strengthen your muscles, improve your sleep, improve your posture, help maintain or improve flexibility and range of motion, and support your overall quality of life.2

These exercises are quick and require no equipment, aside from a chair.3-5 A towel or yoga mat is helpful for some of the exercises but not required.

Talk to your rheumatologist, physical therapist, or other health care provider before beginning any new exercise program. They can help you identify which types of physical activity are best for you. If you experience pain or any discomfort while exercising, stop the exercise and tell your doctor.

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Standing Exercises

1. Shoulder Raise

  • Pull your neck and shoulders back as you stand tall.
  • Pull your shoulders up near your ears and hold for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat three times.

2. Side Knee Touch

  • Stand up tall. Bend to one side, reaching for your knee. Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Straighten and repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat three times.

3. Wide Step Stretch

  • With one foot, take a wide step to the side and put your hands on that knee as you slowly bend it. Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Straighten and repeat with the other leg.
  • Repeat three times.

4. Wide Side Stretch

  • Stand with your feet far apart. Lean to one side and put your hands on that thigh as you slowly lower your body. Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Straighten and repeat on the other side.
  • Repeat three times.

Floor Exercises

5. Arched Back Stretch

  • Get on your hands and knees. Lower your head and arch your back. Hold for 15 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position. Push your chest forward and raise your head. Hold for 15 seconds.
  • Repeat three times.

6. Arm and Leg Extension

  • Get on your hands and knees. Slowly raise your right arm and left leg. Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position. Raise your left arm and right leg. Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat three times.

7. Arm Opening

  • Lie on your side with your knees bent and stacked on top of each other.
  • Reach your arms out in front of you with your palms together in a prayer position.
  • Lift your top arm toward the ceiling, allowing the top half of your body to rotate.
  • Keep your hips facing forward.
  • Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat three times on each side.

8. Pelvic Tilts

  • Lie on your back on a bed or the floor.
  • Push your lower back into the bed, bending your knees and planting your feet.
  • Placing your weight on your heels, lift your hips straight up and off the floor. Keep your knees in line with your hips.
  • Hold for five seconds, then lower your hips and relax. Repeat 10 times.

Progression to Shoulder Bridge

  • Do the same movement as above. When you lift your hips, lift them higher toward the ceiling so your body is supported only by your feet and shoulders.
  • Hold this position for five seconds, then lower your hips and relax. Repeat 10 times.

Chair Exercises

9. Neck Rotation

  • Sit up straight and look forward. Slowly rotate your neck toward your left shoulder, as far as you can comfortably stretch. Come back to the center. Repeat three times. On the final repetition, hold for five seconds.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat on the right side.

10. Neck Side Flexion

  • Sit up straight and look forward. Stretch your left ear toward your left shoulder as far as you can without moving your shoulder. Come back to the center. Repeat three times. On the final repetition, hold for five seconds.
  • Return to the starting position. Repeat on the right side.

11. Neck Retraction

  • Sit up straight and look forward. Tuck your chin to your chest so that you feel a stretch at the back of your neck.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat three times.

12. Neck Downward Flexion

  • Lower your head to look straight down. Avoid pointing your chin forward.
  • Place one hand on the back of your head and gently guide your head down further.
  • Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat three times.

13. Thoracic Spine Rotation

  • Sit up straight and look forward. Fold your arms so that each palm is touching the opposite shoulder. Lift your elbows to the same level as your shoulders. Rotate your elbows and neck to the left without moving your pelvis. Come back to the center. Repeat three times. On the final repetition, hold for five seconds.
  • Return to the starting position. Follow the same instructions on the right side.

Exercise Tips

  • Go at your own pace. Take breaks between exercises if needed.
  • Get in the habit of checking your posture. Throughout the day, make sure your back is straight, your shoulders aren’t scrunched up near your ears, your feet are flat on the floor, and your head is not looking down. Use a wall or other stable vertical surface to check the straightness of your posture.
  • Keep track of your symptoms, such as low back pain, as well as the exercises that you do regularly.5 You may figure out what exercises are most and least effective in alleviating your inflammatory arthritis symptoms.

Exercise Resources

There are several resources that can help you keep up an exercise routine at home, including apps and videos.

Smartphone Apps

The following smartphone apps provide exercise instructions specifically designed for people with various types of spondylitis:

Videos

The Spondylitis Association of America offers several exercise videos, including instructions for stretches, cardiovascular exercises, and yoga.

Other Resources

The following resources from the Spondylitis Association of America can also help you understand the role of exercise in managing your health and help you find a plan that works for you:


GL-DA-2300220. Date of preparation: September 2023
© UCB Biopharma SRL, 2023. All rights reserved.

References
  1. Exercise. Spondylitis Association of America. Accessed September 2023. https://spondylitis.org/about-spondylitis/treatment-information/exercise
  2. Exercise. National Axial Spondyloarthritis Society. Accessed September 2023. https://nass.co.uk/managing-my-as/exercise
  3. Ankylosing spondylitis exercises YouTube page. Accessed September 2023. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noOWpVUxBuk
  4. Morning stretch. Spondylitis Association of America. Accessed September 2023. https://spondylitis.org/resources-support/educational-materials-resources/back-in-action-again
  5. Exercises for axial spondyloarthritis (AxSpA). Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. June 2018. Updated March 2021. Accessed September 2023. https://www.royalberkshire.nhs.uk/media/ocbffccp/axspa-exercises_mar21.pdf

        Updated on October 12, 2023
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        Alison Channon has nearly a decade of experience writing about chronic health conditions, mental health, and women's health. Learn more about her here

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