The Worthing and Bognor Regis branches of the National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society (NASS) joined forces for the AS Awareness Day, which saw more than 30 members and guests gather for talks and information sharing.
Anthony Tuffin, chairman of Bognor NASS, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, said: “The event was to raise awareness of AS and help patients manage their condition.
“All the speakers agreed that the best treatment was exercise and they recommended patients to join their local NASS branch, where they could not only exercise under the supervision of qualified physiotherapists but also find mutual support from fellow patients.”
Speakers included Dr Sanjeev Menon, consultant rheumatologist at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester; Claire Davey, physiotherapist at Worthing Hospital; and Sally Dickinson, the charity’s communications manager.
Branch members also spoke about the benefits they had received from the charity, which provides physiotherapy groups and advice for patients and families, and supports research and campaigns to raise awareness of AS.
A painful, progressive condition, AS affects an estimated 200,000 in the UK, which is twice the number of people who have Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis.
If not diagnosed early enough or treated correctly, AS can cause irreversible fusing of the spine. It can also affect other joints, tendons and ligaments, plus eyes, bowel, skin, lungs and the heart.
There is currently no cure for AS, it is managed by a combination of pain relief and stretching exercises.
Exercise is the single most important thing that people with AS can do to help themselves. Exercise increases flexibility and mobility, improves posture and sleep and reduces the stiffness and pain experienced by many people with AS.
The NASS branches provide physiotherapy that is not available on the NHS for AS patients in their areas.
The branches are financed by member subscriptions, fundraising events and charitable donations.
For AS patients in the Worthing area, gym and hydrotherapy exercise sessions are held from 6pm to 7pm every other Tuesday at Worthing Hospital, in Lyndhurst Road, Worthing. The cost is £5 per session or £21 monthly by standing order.
The Worthing NASS branch was founded in 1994, so it will celebrate its silver anniversary in two years’ time. Visit www.nass.co.uk/branch/worthing for more information or telephone Tony Hall on 01903 763821.
Those in the Bognor and Chichester area meet from 6pm to 8pm on Wednesdays at Bognor Regis War Memorial Hospital, in Shripney Road. The costs is £8 a session, £37.50 for five sessions or £28.50 per month by standing order. Visit www.nass.co.uk/branch/bognor-regis for more information or contact Anthony Tuffin on 01243 604715.