I'm a newbee here. I've been diagnosed with spondylitis for a couple of years and am just now barely realizing that this stuff isn't going away. There is no surgery to fix this. And the loss (what I used to be able to do compared to what I can do now) is overwhelming. Even my pity party is winding down - so now what?? Those of you who are/were athletes....how do you deal with this?
I played tennis competitively in college. A couple of years after college I developed a really nasty case of bicipital tendonitis. Little did I know that was probably my first warning sign about the insidious spondy beast.
When recovering, I ended up picking up hiking. Then social dancing. Then yoga. Things that I never thought I would enjoy because I spent so many years playing tennis, I started exploring and loved it.
Throughout the years, I dealt with numerous tendon and muscle injuries, all which were frustratingly slow to heal. Eventually, I had my first major flare that pretty much crippled me. Moved back in with my parents. Couldn't drive without my arms being in complete pain afterwards. Ended up going on medical leave. It was a low point.
But with a lot of luck and the information on this forum, I learned how to manage the disease. In my initial stages of recovery, I would go outside and walk around the block (10 minutes). I attended a qi gong class.
Over time, I was able to stretch my walks to 30 minutes. Eventually, I started a Pilates based physical therapy program. I started taking a restorative yoga class because I wasn't strong enough to take a 'regular' class.
With slow and steady progress, I was able to strengthen. My walks increased to 60 minutes. I was responding positively to the strengthening exercises.
Last summer, I played tennis for the first time. I can now attend a 'regular' yoga class without hurting myself. I did my first push-up in ages in January this year. I now feel comfortable hiking up to 3 hours. On shorter hikes, I run for little bursts. I'm now social dancing again.
One of the things that I took away was that it's critical to focus on what you can do and not what you can't. If you focus on the latter, it'll be so demoralizing you'll never have a chance. While what you can do now may not be fun, you may discover that it can serve as a spring board for better days.
I do feel that you need to get the inflammation under control if you are to observe sustained improvement. There lots of different ways to do this; you just need to find something that works for you.
Never give up. Keep an open mind. You may not be able to do what you were capable of previously, but you may end up finding something new that will enrich your life.