Oct 29, 2023

Upgrades and Assistive Devices for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Home upgrades and assistive devices can make daily life easier when you have ankylosing spondylitis (AS). These can include canes, walkers, specialized car mirrors, and shower handles.

Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of autoimmune inflammatory arthritis of the spine (spinal spondylitis). With ankylosing spondylitis, vertebrae (bones of the spine) and joints connecting the spine and hips become stiff and painful due to a mistaken immune reaction that causes inflammation.

People with AS can experience back and hip pain and limited mobility. Shoulders, hips, ribs, heels, and joints in the hands and feet can also be affected. Treating AS can include physical therapy, medications, and, in rare cases, spinal surgery.

This article discusses devices and home upgrades that can help manage ankylosing spondylitis.

Willie B. Thomas / Getty Images

Assistive devices for ankylosing spondylitis can help with monitoring symptoms, managing and preventing pain, and performing activities of daily living.

Before purchasing or renting assistive devices or modifying your home, speak to a healthcare provider about the best aids for you and your AS symptoms. In addition, your insurance company or Medicare/Medicaid office can provide information on cost savings for both home modifications and medically assisted devices.

Medical devices to help with AS-related hip, back, and joint pain might include:

Devices that can help manage AS pain during and after daily activities include:

Reachers are mobility devices that can help with grabbing objects without bending, stretching, or twisting to retrieve them. They help extend reach and range of motion for people with AS while easing pressure on the joints. Reachers are usually lightweight and operate with a handle for the user to press, which then causes a grabber on the other end to grip and release items.

Grips make it easier to open jars and bottles. They ease pressure on joints in the hand, which can help prevent pain.

Joint pain can make getting a good night's sleep and getting ready for the day difficult for people with spinal arthritis. Here are modifications and devices that can help.

It's advised to avoid devices that limit sleeping to one position, which can increase joint pain from AS. But there are methods of finding comfort in a preferred sleeping position. These include:

Several devices and products can help people with AS get dressed, including:

Upgrading your bathroom can be important when living with AS, considering the risk of slipping. Bathroom devices can also help with bathing and other tasks. Here are some suggestions:

Making adjustments in the kitchen, including adding easy-to-use tools, can make cooking safer and simpler.

Kitchen upgrades that can help people with arthritis include:

Kitchen tools that might be useful to someone with joint pain include:

For navigating a home office, it might help someone managing joint pain to add the following to their work life:

For general mobility around their home, someone with AS might consider the following.

Handrails and grab bars can be added throughout the home to limit strain for people with joint pain, including in or around:

People with AS might have difficulty switching between sitting and standing or remaining comfortable in seats. Raising seats to limit motion or having electronic adjustable seats could help, including with:

Nonslip mats can be used throughout a home to keep people with AS safe from slips and falls. This can include mats in the bath, kitchen, office, and well-trafficked areas.

Consider these changes:

These changes may add convenience:

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a spinal arthritis that causes inflammation in the vertebrae (spinal bones) and hips, along with other joints in the body. In addition to medication, there are ways to manage daily life with AS with home modifications, assistive devices, and other tools.

Walkers, canes, and custom orthotics (insoles) can all be prescribed and possibly covered by health insurance, while pain management tools like heating or ice pads and TENS units can be purchased in stores or online.

Reachers, grips, nonslip mats, raised or electronic seats, grab rails, and extension cords can be implemented throughout a home to help people with AS. Voice-activated and touch technology, such as Google Voice or touch lamps, can also help with preventing AS-related joint pain, while personal alarm systems could send out alerts in case of a fall.

Using a sturdy mattress and pillows for knees in the bedroom, long-handled brushes and shower benches in the bathroom, and placing most-used dishes and kitchen tools on the counter are also examples of home modifications that can assist with managing AS.

In the home office, foam supports for your wrists, placing monitors at eye level, props for reading phones and tablets, and larger pens can help people with AS continue their working lives.

The Spondylitis Association of America recommends four types of exercises for people with AS: range of motion and stretching (moving joints through complete motions), cardiovascular (exercises that increase heart rate three to five times a week for at least 25 minutes a day), strengthening (strengthening your core and weight lifting), and balance (focusing on stability while moving or staying still for at least 20 minutes a day, three days a week).

According to the Arthritis Foundation, while a brace could prevent bending or reaching, it might not be practical. Maintaining straight posture, sleeping on a flat back without a pillow, and exercising can all help with back pain or mobility issues related to AS. A physical therapist can determine the best exercises for you.

Health insurance, including Medicare, can cover some medically-necessary devices and home modifications. These include walkers, canes, custom orthotics (like insoles), grab bars, ramps, door openers and doorbells, bathtub changes, faucet modifications, workstation changes, or cabinet modifications. Benefits and coverage can depend on your state's insurance rules and your plan.

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By Neha KashyapNeha is a New York-based health journalist who has written for WebMD, ADDitude, HuffPost Life, and dailyRx News. Neha enjoys writing about mental health, elder care, innovative health care technologies, paying for health care, and simple measures that we all can take to work toward better health.

Walkers Canes Custom orthotics Heating pads Ice packs/cold compresses Massagers Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS)