7 Natural, Fast Acting Pain Relief Tips for Ankylosing Spondylitis Flares

Simple techniques you can use to fight inflammation โœ”๏ธ

When you are in a ‘flare’ with AS, it’s hard to think of anything else.

Low-level AS pain leaves you with fatigue, brain fog, and feeling low. Intense flares mean debilitating, screaming joint pain that can stop you from doing everyday things.

The good news is that there are things you can do to help mitigate that pain. Here are my favorites.

1. Mini Electric Heat Pad โœ…

Electric ‘plug in’ heat pads can provide fast, soothing relief.

Because they’re small and portable they easily wrap around the back – or any joint that is in pain – and can be used anywhere from the sofa to the office chair to the bed.

They are inexpensive and a lot more convenient than heated blankets which cover a whole bed.

โž• Provides some immediate relief
โž• Can help with sleep
โž– Relief tends to be temporary

This is the heat pad I have (but any inexpensive one will do):

View the mini heat pad I use

๐Ÿ’กTip: For more portability it is also possible to get battery powered ones. You can see one here.

Heat Pad for Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Power Rating 50% 50%
  • Convenience 85% 85%
  • Longevity 10% 10%
Biofreeze for Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Power Rating 50% 50%
  • Convenience 100% 100%
  • Longevity 15% 15%

2. BioFreeze Gel โœ…

There are dozens of gels and sprays on the market designed to heat or cool the skin. They help soothe ankylosing spondylitis pain by increasing blood flow to the affected area, reducing muscle tension and stiffness.

There’s not a great deal between them (so go with whichever is convenient and within budget) but the most effective gel Iโ€™ve found to date is Biofreeze.

It’s pretty pungent (like a medicinal menthol) but hits deep and can offer strong, temporary relief, in my experience. The best time to put it on is before bed to help you sleep, or when you’re about to go for a walk to help get through that initial 10 – 15 minutes.

โž• Provides some immediate relief
โž• Can help you get through every day tasks
โž– Relief only tends to last 10 – 15 minutes

View Biofreeze here

3. Portable TENS machine โœ…

TENS machines look like little iPods with wires and pads attached. They are battery powered and you simply stick the pads where you’re feeling pain, choose the level you feel happy with and that’s it.

It feels weird at first, like you are being given a mild static electricity shock, but it can offer genuine relief and it is really convenient, size-wise.

Itโ€™s great if you are in flare and need to crack on with day to day life, or if you want to try to exercise. It can help distract you from the pain and get you going.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money on these as I’ve not noticed any difference – pain relief wise – between expensive and cheap ones.

โž• Starts working immediately
โž• Can help you get through every day tasks
โž– Relief is more ‘distraction’ than soothing
โž– Relief only ever lasts as long as it is switched on

This is the one I have:ย View my TENS machine

TENS Machine for Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Power Rating 55% 55%
  • Convenience 65% 65%
  • Longevity 5% 5%
Walking for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Cost: Free!

  • Power Rating 85% 85%
  • Convenience 25% 25%
  • Longevity 25% 25%

4. A Long Walk โœ…

Walking feels like the opposite of what you want to when you are in flare and your joints are screaming at you.

However if you can get moving for an extended period of time, it can really help. Everyone is different but for me personally after 70 minutes I tend to experience significant relief.

If you are struggling to get moving in the first place using a TENS machine for the first stretch can be fantastically helpful, or if you don’t have one, applying some Biofreeze or heat/cold rub.

While painful at first I’ve never regretted using walking to help me deal with painful flares.

โž• Really helps lower inflammation and ease pain
โž• Longer lasting pain relief (a few hours)
โž– Can be very painful at first
โž– Not always possible

5. Intense Hot & Cold Exposure โœ…

Hot/cold therapy can be extremely effective and yields fast, often long lasting results.

I have found that 1 hour to 1.5 hours is optimum. The process is as follows. Sit in a hot sauna (15 – 20 minutes) then enter straight into an ice bath (1 – 2 minutes), then sit in room temperature (5 minutes), then back to the sauna and so on, until time is up.

Ideally you need access to facility which offers both sauna and ice/cold bath. Your local gym may offer this, so check. ‘Banya’ and ‘cryotherapy’ are also useful terms. Some dedicated saunas are now offering ice baths as cold exposure gains popularity.

โž• Powerful, immediate inflammation buster
โž• Long lasting pain relief – can last days
โž– Not accessible for all and can be expensive

๐Ÿ’กTip: Can’t get to a sauna/ice bath? Try a mini version at home by having a long hot bath, followed by a shower on the coldest setting!

Hot and Cold Exposure for Ankylosing Spondylitis
  • Power Rating 95% 95%
  • Convenience 10% 10%
  • Longevity 85% 85%
Hot Bath for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Cost: Free!

  • Power Rating 60% 60%
  • Convenience 70% 70%
  • Longevity 15% 15%

6. Hot Bath (With Epsom Salts) โœ…

A hot bath gets its own special mention because it will be accessible to more people than sauna and ice baths.

While not as powerful as longer sessions in those more extreme, controlled temperature environments, a bath can provide some immediate relief and help you to de-stress.

Adding Epsom salts to the bath can also give an additional pain relief bump (any old Epsom salts will do, it doesn’t need to be a brand).

Pain relief-wise it’s the heat of the bath which offers the most help.

However the magnesium in the Epsom salts absorbs into the skin which is also beneficial.

โž• Offers some instant relief
โž• Helps to ‘de-stress’
โž– Not always convenient

7. A 48 – 72 Hour Food Fast โœ…

This is the most effective strategy I’ve tried to date.

Each time I have followed a strict fast for between 48 hours (minimum) to 72 hours (maximum). This has stopped and eliminated the flare each time.

No food. To drink only water, black coffee (1 cup a day) and bone broth (3 cups a day).

For anyone who has had success using diet to help manage their AS (and can fast safely) this is worth trying but please only proceed if it is safe for you to do so.

โž• Powerful technique that can eliminate flaresย 
โž• Long lasting pain relief (flare usually gone)
โž– May be uncomfortable for some
โž– Requires strong willpower

๐Ÿ’กTip: Interested in learning more about using diet to help manage AS symptoms? Take a look here.

Fasting for Ankylosing Spondylitis

Cost: Free!

  • Power Rating 100% 100%
  • Convenience 10% 10%
  • Longevity 100% 100%

More natural pain relief techniques to consider

 

โœ”๏ธ Acupuncture

Acupuncture can help to reduce inflammation (and pain!), improve joint mobility, and boost the immune system. It can stimulate the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body, such as endorphins and enkephalins.

โœ”๏ธ Craniosacral therapy

Craniosacral therapy focuses on the bones, nerves, and fluids which surround the brain and spinal cord. By addressing any imbalances it can help to reduce pain and inflammation and improve joint mobility. It can also help support the immune system.

โœ”๏ธ Massage

A good massage helps reduce pain, stiffness, and inflammation in targeted areas and can also improve joint mobility and increase blood circulation. It can also stimulate the release of natural pain-relieving chemicals in the body like endorphins and serotonin, which can also help to alleviate pain.

โœ”๏ธ Fasciablasting

Fasciablasting involves using a special tool to apply pressure to the fascia (the connective tissue that surrounds muscles and organs). It can help to improve blood flow, reduce pain and inflammation, and increase flexibility. It can also help to break up scar tissue which develops with chronic inflammation (and further contributes to pain and stiffness).

Please note: These are my own subjective findings and pain relief ratings. As ever, your mileage may vary. The goal, eventually, is to collate a crowd based rating system. You can help by leaving your own ratings and pain relief tips in the comments section below.

2 Comments

  1. Phil Tyner

    I am on Humera for my AK. This works very well for pain.

    Reply
    • Gut Heroes

      So glad that it’s working well for you, Phil

      Reply

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