5 key elements of my morning routine with ankylosing spondylitis

How I combat morning stiffness, pain, and other AS symptoms

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by Janneke Phung |

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Since I was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis (AS) in October 2019, my symptoms have significantly diminished, thanks to diet and lifestyle modifications. But several years ago, despite my being a morning person, there wasn’t a chance I could’ve woken up, hopped out of bed, and started my day while moving as quickly as my three young children.

Almost anyone with AS will tell you that mornings are rough. Morning stiffness is a common symptom, and one I battled daily. Despite a busy and chaotic life, I developed a personal morning routine that, to this day, works for me.

Not everyone’s morning routine will be identical, but I hope this short list of ideas encourages others with similar diagnoses to come up with a routine that works for them. Developing consistent habits that help your condition will often have positive results!

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Following are five key elements of my morning routine.

1. Water

When I’m feeling fancy, I’ll add some fresh lemon juice, but without fail, I start my day with water. Keeping my body hydrated is a key component of keeping my joints and bones healthy and lessening inflammation throughout my body.

2. Stretch and exercise

I don’t mean the quick stretch-and-sigh as you realize it’s time to ditch the bed and start the day. Instead, I stretch and exercise for around 15 minutes every morning.

My rheumatologist and chiropractor have provided me with helpful stretches specific to AS. Sometimes, when I first get going, my body is stiff and achy. (Start gently!) However, I’m often encouraged after this short period of stretching because I see an immediate improvement in my flexibility and range of motion.

3. Hot shower with a cold ending

The hot shower part is fantastic! Heat loosens my muscles and relieves the pain and stiffness associated with ankylosing spondylitis. But even after months of doing it, I don’t love ending my shower with a minute or two of cold water.

However, I keep reading about the benefits of doing so, such as improved circulation, increased immunity, and reduced inflammation. I’ve felt great since I added this to my routine, and I don’t want to mess with a good thing. If all else fails, it certainly wakes me up and leaves me feeling energized and invigorated.

4. Prayer, meditation, worship

I love that these practices get the focus off of me. I’ve prayed for healing for myself, but my aim during my morning quiet time is to look to Jesus Christ for wisdom, guidance, peace, and surrender. I find a renewed sense of gratitude, perspective, strength, and purpose in life when the focus is off of me and whatever pain or stress I’m facing that day.

5. Meat stock

More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, stated that all disease starts in the gut. I don’t know if all disease starts in the gut, but in my opinion, ankylosing spondylitis does.

My focus has shifted from controlling symptoms and halting disease progression through a starch-free lifestyle to healing my gut lining and microbiome. I consume a warm cup of meat stock for breakfast every morning, partly because Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, founder of the GAPS diet, believes it can help heal ulcerations in the gut lining. If all else fails, it’s a daily cup of comfort. 

Thankfully, my mornings aren’t nearly as uncomfortable as they once were. Still, I’m sticking to this routine because it works for me. At one point in my life, I couldn’t have imagined waking up earlier than I needed to. Now, I feel my best when I start my day this way. Waking up before the kids is a small sacrifice!

Thanks for reading! You can read more about my story, browse starch-free recipes, or read the stories of others who successfully manage their AS with diet and lifestyle modifications here. Join me on Instagram and Facebook for the latest updates and recipes!

Note: Ankylosing Spondylitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ankylosing Spondylitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to ankylosing spondylitis.


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