13 Ankylosing Spondylitis Natural Treatments

Linda Rider

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) can cause significant pain and stiffness in the spine and other joints. It can also cause fatigue, spinal deformities, and other systemic symptoms.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for AS, but medical treatments are available to help manage symptoms and slow progression. Many people with AS also choose to adopt lifestyle changes or follow natural treatments to control their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

In this article, learn more about natural treatments for AS and the research to support them.

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What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?

AS is a type of chronic inflammatory arthritis. It primarily affects joints and ligaments of the spine but can also affect other joints.

In some cases, the vertebrae of the spine can fuse, causing significant stiffness and restrictions in the spine for bending, twisting, turning, and other forms of mobility.

Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis

Symptoms of AS include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the spine and other joints, such as ribs, hips, knees, shoulders, feet, and ankles
  • Episodes of low back pain
  • Fatigue
  • Enthesitis
  • Anterior uveitis
  • Spinal deformities, such as a hunched back

13 Natural Treatments for AS

For various reasons, people choose natural treatments for AS. In some cases, these treatments or lifestyle changes can be more immediately accessible, meaningful, and complement an existing medical approach. About 40{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} of people with AS report using one or more complementary treatment approaches.

Stretching Regularly

AS can cause joint stiffness and pain, often leading to reduced mobility, which compounds the loss of flexibility.

Taking time to stretch regularly can help maintain flexibility and reduce pain. Consider the following stretches:

  • Gentle back stretches
  • Shoulder rolls
  • Postural stretches
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Deep breathing

Taking Warm Baths and Applying Heat 

Using heat therapy can help reduce pain and improve mobility in the joints.

Some examples include:

  • Soaking in a warm bath or pool
  • Using a heating pad
  • Using an electric blanket
  • Drinking from a hot water bottle
  • Sitting on heated seats

A physical therapist may use other therapeutic thermal modalities, such as ultrasound.

Doing Cardio and Strength Exercises

Research from 2021 shows that aerobic exercises can help improve AS symptoms and disease activity.

Consider adding cardio and strength exercises to your routine. Some examples include:

  • Joining a running or biking group
  • Participating in an AS-specific exercise group
  • Joining a dance class
  • Doing body-weight exercises

Practicing Good Posture

AS can lead to a hunched back posture in some people due to joint fusing. This can eventually lead to poor balance, loss of core strength, and risk of falls and injury.

Postural exercises can help maintain a healthy spinal curve for as long as possible. Consult with a physical therapist for postural exercises tailored to you.

Trying Acupuncture 

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that involves pricking thin needles into specific points along the body to restore energy flow.

Many people with AS find benefits from acupuncture, although evidence at this time is lacking. However, multiple systematic reviews (the highest level of research) on the effectiveness of acupuncture on AS are underway.

Moving Regularly 

Getting regular, consistent movement may be helpful for those with AS. When you sit still for too long in a car or at a desk, for example, you may feel your spine and other joints freeze up and get more painful and stiff. Take time to stretch your neck, shoulders, and spine, and take walking breaks.

Performing Deep Breathing Frequently 

For some people, AS can make it harder to breathe. This is due to spine curvature and stiffness as well as inflammation and stiffness in the ribs.

Research shows that practicing breathing exercises can help maintain your rib, chest, and mid-back mobility, reduce pain, improve respiratory function, and improve overall function in people with AS.

Being Aware of Your Sleep Posture 

Your sleep position could be contributing to your AS pain. Think of the number of hours you sleep per night and the position you hold; many people sleep on their stomach or side, twisting or compressing their spine, which could aggravate their joint pain.

For AS, it is recommended to sleep on your back and maintain a neutral spine position with its natural curves.

Looking Into Massage Therapy

Massage therapy is a natural treatment option for AS. It can relax muscles around stiff or fused joints, improve mobility, and help you feel calmer and more relaxed.

Around 30{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} of people with AS who use complementary treatments report having regular massage therapy.

Using Cold Packs

Cold can reduce inflammation and swelling. If you are having an AS flare with low-back pain, using a cold pack may help reduce some of the inflammation.

Always use cold packs over another fabric, not the bare skin, for no longer than 20 minutes.

Quitting Smoking If You Haven’t 

If you have AS and you smoke, quitting is one of the best things you can do to manage your symptoms. One 2019 study of AS patients found that quitting smoking significantly improved their quality of life, AS disease activity, and mobility.

Considering TENS Therapy 

Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) units are available over the counter and are popular in treating various types of chronic pain. Some people use these to help with AS-related pain, although research does not support their effectiveness.

Practicing Yoga and Other Balance Exercises 

Yoga, Pilates, and other balance exercises may be helpful to those with AS, although there is minimal supporting research at this point. These types of exercise use a combination of stretching, strengthening, and balance control, as well as relaxation techniques.

Over-the-Counter (OTC) and Prescription Medication

In addition to natural treatments for AS, your rheumatologist and other healthcare providers will likely recommend medical treatments as well. Some common OTC and prescribed treatments for AS include:

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM)

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapy can be beneficial for AS symptoms as well.

Vitamin D

People with AS generally have lower vitamin D levels than healthy people without AS. Research has also found that vitamin D deficiency among those with AS is linked to a higher risk of death from any cause.

However, the exact relationship between vitamin D and AS is unknown, and the benefit of supplementing with vitamin D has not been well-studied regarding AS. If you have AS, you should discuss vitamin D supplements with your healthcare provider.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated acids found in certain fish, nuts, seeds, plant oils, and supplements. Their inflammation reduction benefits have been studied regarding types of arthritis, including AS. Try to eat a diet with plenty of natural omega-3s and discuss supplementation with your healthcare provider.


Curcumin is a chemical found in the turmeric plant, a bright yellowish-orange substance used to flavor foods and color products. It’s also shown to lower inflammation in arthritis and other conditions.

If you are interested in supplementing with turmeric, talk to your healthcare provider first, as there can be side effects and contraindications.


Some people may pursue natural treatments for ankylosing spondylitis to complement their existing medical treatments. While there is often less evidence to support these natural treatments, many people with AS report using at least one and finding benefits. Massage, stretching, exercise, breathing techniques, and more can help you feel better with AS.

A Word From Verywell

Ankylosing spondylitis can affect your quality of life and make mobility more challenging. Natural treatments for AS may give you back a sense of control and allow you to actively participate in your treatment plan. Be sure to collaborate with your healthcare providers when you start any new treatment or make any major lifestyle change.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can ankylosing spondylitis be reversed naturally?

    AS cannot be cured. However, some natural treatments, such as specific exercises, stretches, massage, heat therapy, and more, can improve symptoms and reduce disease activity.

  • Are medicinal herbs good for ankylosing spondylitis?

    You should discuss medicinal herbs for AS with your rheumatologist before taking them to review any possible side effects, interactions with medication, or contraindications. There is minimal research to support the value of medicinal herbs for AS; however, there is one ongoing study into the effectiveness of the traditional Chinese medicine Yanghe decoction (including rehmannia, Cinnamomum cassia, Semen Brassicae, charcoal of ginger, and other herbs) for AS.

  • Is there a cure for ankylosing spondylitis?

    There is no cure for AS, but many medical and natural treatments are available to reduce symptoms, slow progression, and maintain quality of life.

  • Which is the best diet to manage ankylosing spondylitis?

    There is no specific diet for AS, although some low-level case studies have found benefits from anti-inflammatory (no gluten, dairy, or refined sugar) diets. Maintaining a healthy weight with AS is also beneficial in reducing pressure on joints.

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