Making Your Home Safer

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2019 | Last updated: June 2019

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) commonly affects the spine and may also impact other joints, causing pain and stiffness. As the disease progresses over time, the joints may become fused, causing changes in posture and increasing the risk of fractures. Some people with AS develop kyphosis, a curvature of the spine that causes a stooped posture. This can make performing daily living activities difficult, as well as impacting balance. People with balance problems are at a higher risk of falls, which can cause significant injury and disability.1

AS affects not only the body but also how the individual lives their life. As one of the places where you spend your most time, it’s important that the home is both comfortable and supportive of your condition. There are several adaptations that can be made in the home to support someone with AS.

Home changes to support good posture

Because AS commonly affects the spine, maintaining good posture is important to support the back and help maintain an upright bearing. While sitting or standing, you should aim to keep the spine tall and straight. To support good posture in the home, consider these adaptations:

  • Support the back with extra pillows. When watching TV or just relaxing, avoid slouching. Instead, use pillows to support your back in an upright posture.
  • Use firmer chairs and sofas. You may need to switch out softer furniture for ones that provide firmer support.
  • Organize the pantry and kitchen. Keep utensils and items that you use frequently in a place that is easy to reach.
  • Invest in an ergonomic desk chair. At the home office or work office, a supportive desk chair can help support your back and make sitting during work more comfortable.

Changes to prevent falls

Chronic pain and stiffness can impact how a person with AS walks, and some days may be easier than others. You can help prevent falls by taking steps to adapt the home in several ways, such as:

  • Creating clear walkways. Ensure walkways in the home are clear of clutter, electrical cords, or kids’ toys. Furniture should be moved out of pathways.
  • Securing area rugs. Any area rugs should have a non-skid backing or be secured to prevent tripping.
  • Mounting handrails on stairways. Handrails provide help and can give someone ease of mind. If balance gets a little unstable, it’s nice to be able to reach out and hold on for a little extra support.
  • Install bars or handrails in tubs or showers. It’s slippery in the bath or shower, and a handrail or bar can provide extra peace-of-mind and support when needed.
  • Use non-skid bath mats. Placing non-skid rubber bath mats in showers or tubs can help prevent slips during bathing.

Get professional help

Occupational therapists are licensed health professionals that work with people who need specialized assistance due to physical, developmental, social, or emotional problems. Occupational therapists often work with people with AS and other illnesses or disabilities to help them do everyday tasks that are important to them, such as eating, dressing, and work activities. They can help you find ways to reduce the strain on your joints and make it easier to do the things you want and need to do.2,3

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