The pain and discomfort of psoriatic arthritis (PsA) can be hard to manage. But you can take steps to keep the pain at bay that don’t involve more pills, prescription creams, or another visit to your doctor.
These more natural methods won’t cure you. But if you talk to your doctor and work together to come up with a plan, these homegrown remedies might help ease your aching joints.
If you have PsA and you're overweight, you're more likely to have pain, tender and swollen joints, and other symptoms than people who aren’t carrying extra pounds, a recent study showed. You’re also prone to other illnesses like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer. And it could make it hard for your doctor to figure out the right dose of medication to prescribe for your condition.
Drop the weight and you’ll ease the symptoms that come with this painful condition, the National Psoriasis Foundation says.
These tips will help you stick with a healthy diet:
- Load your plate with fruit, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers, as they can increase swelling.
- Eat only lean meats and poultry, and lots of fish.
- Choose healthy proteins, like beans and nuts.
- Limit alcohol. (You should check with your doctor anyway to make sure that nightcap or occasional beer isn’t affecting the medications you already take.)
- Say “no” to refined sugar and processed foods, especially those that are high in fats.
- Go low-fat or fat-free with dairy products.
- Keep track of your cholesterol and how much salt you eat.
It improves your heath and keeps your joints flexible. If you don’t move enough, you could get stiff joints and muscle weakness, the American College of Rheumatology says.
Two good choices are riding an exercise bike or walking. Use shoe inserts to avoid too much pressure on your feet, ankles, or knees.
You might also try water exercises, like swimming or walking laps in the pool. You’ll get a good workout but won’t stress your joints.
Use Heat and Cold Therapy
Ice reduces swelling, and heat can increase the blood flow through an inflamed area. You might need a little practice to see what feels best for you.
Stress can cause your PsA to flare up. Lower your risk by doing things that relax you. Try yoga, meditation, going for a walk, or reading a good book.
Ask Your Doctor About Alternative Remedies
Some people find that it helps to use alternative remedies along with medical treatment. But talk to your doctor before trying an herb or supplement. Some can cause serious side effects if you take them with your medications.
There aren't a lot of studies on alternative treatments for psoriatic arthritis. But some remedies that may help relieve inflammation or pain include:
Turmeric. This herb has been found to reduce PsA flare-ups. Its active ingredient is curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. You can eat turmeric as a spice in foods. But you'll probably need to take a curcumin supplement for your body to absorb enough to have an effect.
Fish oil. The active ingredient in fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, is known to reduce inflammation. Some doctors recommend omega-3s to help with both skin and joint symptoms. You can get them from supplements, fatty fish like salmon and tuna, and flaxseeds.
Probiotics. These beneficial bacteria may help to reduce inflammation in your body. You can buy probiotic supplements or get them in foods like yogurt and kimchi.
Capsaicin. This is the chemical in chili peppers that makes them taste hot. It's used in some skin creams to help keep your nerves from processing pain sensations. It might also help to relieve redness and scaling from psoriasis.
Oregon Grape. Also called mahonia, this herb helps fight inflammation. Research has found that a skin cream containing 10% mahonia can relieve symptoms of mild to moderate psoriasis.
Essential Oils. These oils, extracted from flowers, trees, herbs, and other plants, can be used for aromatherapy or in bath and massage products. Smelling certain scents, like rosemary and lavender, is thought to help release "feel-good" chemicals in your body. Essential oils are generally safe, but make sure you use diluted versions if they touch your skin.
CBD. This is a compound found in the marijuana plant. But it can't get you high. We need more research, but some people think CBD helps to relieve pain. You can buy it in edible form, as an oil you add to tea or put under your tongue, or in a skin cream. It can interact with some arthritis drugs, so check with a doctor before you try it.
Acupressure gives some people relief. That’s where a therapist applies slight pressure on key points on your body to ease pain and stress, increase blood flow, and boost your immune system. Scientists can’t prove it works for PsA, though.
Massage therapy might help, too. It stretches muscles and joints, and it can help you relax.
Skin Care and Bathing
A good skin-care routine helps stop scaling and itching. Use fragrance-free moisturizers often, and try to get a little sun every day.
Injuries can lead to psoriasis flares. So protect your skin by using gloves when you do chores, always wearing shoes, and applying insect repellent to prevent bites when you're outside.
Short, lukewarm showers and baths are best. Avoid harsh soaps and bath products with heavy fragrances. Some bath additives may help soothe your skin and relieve itching, including:
- Colloidal oatmeal
- Epsom salts
- Dead Sea salts
Soak for about 15 minutes. Use an oil or moisturizer as soon as you get out of the tub.
Have a Healthy Sleep Routine
Pain and itching often make it hard for people with psoriatic arthritis to sleep. At the same time, losing sleep can make your pain feel worse. To boost your chances of getting a good night's sleep, try these:
- Go to sleep and wake up at about the same time every day.
- If you use a corticosteroid, take it in the morning so it won't keep you up. Ask your doctor about medication to control pain at night.
- Get some exercise during the day.
- Turn off your phone and other devices well before bedtime.
- Try yoga or meditation to reduce stress that can keep you from sleeping.
- Apply a thick moisturizer before bed to ease itching.
- Tell your doctor if you're having sleep problems.
The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: “Epidemiology of psoriatic arthritis in the population of the United States.”
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases: “Obesity is associated with a lower probability of achieving sustained minimal disease activity state among patients with psoriatic arthritis.”
Arthritis Foundation: “How Overweight and Obesity Affect Psoriatic Arthritis,” “Psoriatic Arthritis Treatments,” "Supplement and Herb Guide for Arthritis Symptoms," "Aromatherapy for Arthritis Relief," "Skin Protection Tips for Psoriatic Arthritis."
National Psoriasis Foundation: “Diet and Nutrition,” “Anti-Inflammatory Diet," "Integrative Approaches to Care," "Over-the-Counter Topicals"
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “What Are the Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity?”
American College of Rheumatology: “Psoriatic Arthritis.”
Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center: “Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment,” "Can Complementary and Alternative Medicines be Beneficial in Treating Psoriatic Arthritis?"
National Psoriasis Foundation: “Living With Psoriatic Arthritis,” “Stress and psoriatic disease,” “Herbs/Natural Remedies,” “Alternative Therapies.”