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Ankylosing spondylitis

General characteristics

General characteristics

A progressive, arthritis type, inflammation affecting the joints and bones of the spine and often the rear pelvis and the joints where the ribs join the spine. The inflamed joints become increasingly fused (ankylosed) over time leading to stiffness, inflexibility, loss of mobility, misalignment of the body and pain.
It can also be systemic and cause inflammation of other tissues in the body such as the eyes, kidneys, heart and lungs. Studies of people with the condition indicate that the cause can be genetic and is also associated with an abnormal immune response to infection, linked with poor diet and digestive bacterial imbalance. It is more common in males than females and seems to show up at any age.
Symptoms often start as lower back pain after waking or periods of inactivity, which then improves with an increase in exercise or general activity. This is unusual as most back pain gets worse with movement and better for rest. It can last for many years or sometimes disappear spontaneously within a few months.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Follow the advice for 'arthritis' as this is essentially a form of  arthritis affecting the spine and its associated joints.

Swimming and yoga are excellent gentle exercises that won't stress the spine but support it's natural movement and flexibility. Always inform your yoga teacher of your condition as they will guide you to those positions appropriate for you.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

A couple of cups daily of nettle tea will help cleanse the entire body, provide essential nutrients, improve blood flow and give more suppleness and energy. If you choose to do only one therapeutic thing, drink strong nettle tea daily! Use a generous handful in a pot and drink throughout the day.

The anti-inflammatory herbs are extremely helpful in reducing inflammation and its accompanying pain and stiffness. The following herbs will all be of great benefit either in tincture or tea form....
Devils claw acts as an anti-inflammatory due to a cortisone like action and is therefore useful in all arthritic and rheumatic states.
Celery seeds and dandelion root cleanse the joints of debris and waste acids and are pain relieving and anti-inflammatory.
Wild yam is a powerful anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant, improving flexibility of stiff and inflamed joints.
Meadowsweet helps improve the blood flow to the joints, improves movement, strength and flexibility and acts as a natural painkiller due to its high content of salicylic acid.
White willow is also high in salicylic acid (the raw ingredient of aspirin) and is an anti-inflammatory.
Make a tea or mix of tinctures of the above herbs and take 3 times daily.
Comfrey leaf tea can be made into compresses or poultices and applied to the affected areas to help ease pain and inflammation.
Herbs which increase blood flow to the joints and peripheral blood vessels will greatly aid the condition by bringing fresh blood and nutrients to the joints whilst removing waste products and cleaning the surrounding tissue.
Blood movers include prickly ash, a powerful peripheral blood stimulant which is an effective painkiller also. Use as a rub over the affected areas or add a few drops to a herbal formula.
Ginger and cayenne are used to increase blood flow and therefore also relieve congestion and pain. Use in a massage oil along with essential oils such as rosemary and frankincense.

Natural healing

Natural healing

It is very important to keep moving and exercise regularly.  Movement encourages natural lubrication and increased blood flow in the joints. Inactivity will exacerbate the condition and allow fusion of the joints to occur over time.
Therapeutic oils such as cod liver, wheatgerm, evening primrose, hempseed and the like will help keep joints healthy and nourished.

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