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Exercises to Manage Psoriatic Arthritis Pain

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 14, 2020

Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes stiffness, swelling, and pain around your joints. Most commonly, people with psoriatic arthritis already have psoriasis. This skin condition causes raised patches of red skin that often gives off white or gray flakes.

There are five different kinds of psoriatic arthritis depending on factors like the joints that are affected, which sides of the body are affected, and the severity of the pain. To manage psoriatic arthritis pain of any type, doctors suggest that physical activity should be a part of your lifestyle.

Because psoriatic arthritis causes joint pain, you may not feel as able or inclined to get in regular exercise and physical activity. However, certain exercises for psoriatic arthritis, paired with some cardio and stretching, can help with pain, ward off weight gain, improve your mood, and help your overall outlook.

Exercises to Help Psoriatic Arthritis

Experts recommend two main types of exercises for managing psoriatic arthritis: therapeutic and recreational. Both play their part in managing psoriatic arthritis pain and maintaining your overall health.

Recreational Exercises

Recreational exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle that also helps with managing psoriatic arthritis. It helps to maintain muscle strength and the range of movement in your joints in addition to improving your overall fitness. Make sure that you wear comfortable shoes and clothing that give you a full range of motion while you exercise.

Some good recreational exercises for psoriatic arthritis include:

Finger Exercises

Since many people experience finger swelling or pain in the joints with psoriatic arthritis, it’s important to keep your fingers loose and active. These movements and stretches for psoriatic arthritis can help alleviate your pain and will keep your fingers limber. You can repeat each exercise 10 times.

Step 1: Practice making a fist, and then open and close your hand. If you like, you can practice with a stress ball or sock in your hand for extra resistance.

Step 2: Touch the tip of each finger with your thumb. Work from your pointer finger to your pinky and then go back again.

Step 3: Lay your hand on a flat surface, with your palm down and fingers spread apart. Walk your pointer finger toward your thumb while keeping your hand flat, then walk it back. Repeat with the remaining fingers.

Neck and Back Stretches

For psoriatic pain in your neck or back, you can try gentle stretches and movements. Do all of these exercises five times each.

Step 1: Sit up straight in a supportive chair. Tilt your head in one direction toward the opposite shoulder so that you feel a stretch in your neck, and then hold for five seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.

Step 2: Turn your head to the side and hold it for five seconds. Repeat in the opposite direction.

Step 3: Pull in your chin while keeping your neck and back straight. Hold it for five seconds.

Step 4: Move to the floor and lay down on your back. Bring up your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Keep your shoulders flat and roll your knees from side to side.

Step 5: In the same position, push your heels down and lift your rear and lower back off the floor. Keep your shoulders flat on the floor and hold for 5 seconds.

Foot Exercises

If you experience psoriatic arthritis in your feet, toes, or ankles, here are some daily exercises for you to try.

Step 1: Lay 20 marbles or similar objects on the floor and try picking them up, one by one, with your toes.

Step 2: Put a towel on the floor and sit in a chair with your feet over the towel. Scrench your toes so that you bring the towel closer to you. Continue this for 2 or 3 minutes.

Step 3: Sit in a chair with your foot hovering over the floor. Trace the letters of the alphabet, A to Z, with each foot. Once you’re finished, try the alphabet backward, from Z to A.

Step 4: Hold on to a solid surface for balance with both feet on the ground. Slowly lift your toes off the ground 10 times, rest for a minute, then lift your heels off the ground 10 times. Only do this exercise every other day.

Safety Considerations

People with psoriatic arthritis should aim to get in some sort of physical activity every day. You can modify your activity based on your joint pain or range of motion. Keep in mind that some activities, like strength-building, can sometimes cause discomfort and sore muscles, which is normal.

However, if you experience sharp pain or swelling while you exercise, you should stop. If the pain lasts for more than a few hours it’s a sign that you’re pushing yourself too hard. Stop and make sure that you’re performing the exercises correctly before trying them again, and talk to your doctor if your pain persists.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Harvard Health Publishing: “Psoriatic Arthritis.”

Hospital for Special Surgery: “Hand and Foot Exercises for Psoriatic Arthritis.”

The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance: “Keeping active.”

The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance: “Physiotherapy & Exercise: Psoriatic Arthritis.”

Versus Arthritis: “What is psoriatic arthritis?”

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