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Home Remedies For Pain

Because ankylosing spondylitis (AS) can cause chronic and sometimes severe pain, people living with AS may try a variety of approaches to relieve their symptoms. In addition to over-the-counter and prescription medications, many people use home remedies for pain relief. No one solution works for everyone, but there are many approaches to managing pain.

Heat and Cold

Applying heat or cold (or alternating the two) to the body are some of the simplest approaches for joint pain. While the relief may be temporary, heat and cold are effective and some of the least expensive methods for managing pain.1

Cold may be applied by using ice packs or taking an ice bath (a combination of cold water and ice). Cold can reduce swelling and numb nerve endings. Ice packs should only be placed against the body for short durations (no more than 20 minutes at a time) and should be wrapped in cloth or a towel to reduce the risk of damaging the skin.1

There are several ways to use heat for aching joints, including a heating pad, a warm bath or shower, or a warm paraffin wax bath for hands or feet. Heat relaxes muscles and can help ease the stiffness of AS. Like cold applications, heating pads should be wrapped in cloth or a protective covering and only be placed against an area for 20 minutes or less.1

Exercise

Regular exercise is an important part of managing AS, and exercise can help with pain management. Limiting movement in a joint that aches can weaken muscles and compound joint trouble, while exercise can strengthen supporting muscles and help maintain flexibility.2 If you aren’t sure which exercises may be best for you, consult with your doctor or a physical therapist. Occasionally your doctor may advise rest for a specific joint that is significantly inflamed until it has time to respond to treatment. Additionally, if you notice that exercise seems to be worsening pain it is best to stop and discuss with your doctor.

Massage

Massage is a type of bodywork that may involve pressing or rubbing to manipulate the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Massage is used for many health conditions and provides several health benefits, including reducing stress, pain, and muscle tension. In addition to the health benefits, many people find massage produces feelings of caring, comfort, and connection. Massage may be performed by a licensed massage therapist, by a loved one or caregiver, or through self-massage techniques. Regular massage can help improve symptoms such as stiffness, flexibility, and pain.3

Mindfulness practices

Mindfulness practices include a variety of meditation and relaxation techniques that aim to relax the body and allow the mind to observe what is happening in a detached, calm manner. Many mindfulness strategies begin with breathing exercises, in which the individual learns how focusing on and controlling the inhalation and exhalation of the breath leads to more relaxation and less stress. Studies have found that mindfulness can improve pain and depression symptoms.4,5

Coordinating your care

Whether you try some of these home remedies or use other complementary approaches, it’s important to talk to your doctor about all the practices you use to help manage the pain and stiffness of AS. Your doctor should be aware of any technique or complementary medicine approach you use, as they are also managing your medications.

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: February 2019
  1. Using heat and cold for pain relief. Arthritis Foundation. Available at http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/heat-cold-pain-relief.php. Accessed 2/14/19.
  2. The secret to joint pain relief – exercise. Harvard Medical School. Available at https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-secret-to-joint-pain-relief-exercise. Accessed 2/14/19.
  3. Benefits of massage. Arthritis Foundation. Available at https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/massage/massage-benefits.php. Accessed 2/14/19.
  4. Cowan P. The connection between mindfulness and pain. Chronicle, American Chronic Pain Association. Available at https://www.theacpa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/chronicle_june2011_ONLINE_052911.pdf. Accessed 2/14/19.
  5. Hilton L, Hempel S, Ewing BA, et al. Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2017;51(2):199-213. doi:10.1007/s12160-016-9844-2.