During normal breathing, ribs move up & down to expand the chest cavity. This movement occurs where they join the vertebrae (costovertebral joint). In ankylosing spondylitis, these joint get inflamed & fused. Once fused, the rib movement gets restricted. This leads to ‘strapped-in’ feeling & breathlessness while doing day today activities.
Just as back exercises keep your spine flexible, so also can deep breathing exercises keep the chest wall elastic & preserve one’s ability to take a deep breath.
Here are a few ‘deep breathing exercises’ to help you keep the chest wall elastic & prevent fusion of the costovertebral joints.
- Rib cage exercises- standing arm exercise, exercise with the ribcage band, lying down & arm stretch exercises ( first three exercises in the video) help exercise the ribcage muscles & prevent fusion at the costovertebral joints.
- The next two exercises help exercise the diaphragm. During inspiration, the diaphragm moves downwards & expands the chest cavity. These exercises will help you with a more effective breathing particularly if you already have restriction in rib cage movements.
- The last exercise will help you understand the ‘rib cage breathing’ & ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ & use both more effectively.
Perform these exercises every day; 10 times at a time, at least twice a day.
One can also use an incentive spirometer to exercise the respiratory muscle.
It is a medical device used to improve the function of the lungs & is generally used after a thoracic surgery. However we can also use it to improve the function of the ribcage muscles.
Here is a video to help you understand how to use it–
Take 15- 20 breaths with the spirometer at least twice a day.
Don’t forget to continue your back exercises. They surely complement these exercises & help you preserve your breathing despite ankylosing spondylitis.