Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) can sometimes make everyday activities challenging. But creative changes can help you protect your joints, lessen pain, keep an active lifestyle, and enjoy your home – inside and out.
Health care professionals can help provide answers to your questions and guide you toward solutions.
Rheumatologist: Because psoriatic arthritis could be confused with other conditions, your primary doctor may recommend a specialist. A rheumatologist will look for swollen and painful joints, certain arthritis patterns, and nail changes that usually happen with psoriasis, among other things. The doctor might ask for imaging, blood tests, and a skin biopsy (when a small piece of skin is removed and closely examined) to confirm your diagnosis. After finding out whether or not you have psoriatic arthritis, your rheumatologist will be able to discuss treatments that are best for you. The right treatment will help ease your pain, protect your joints, and keep you moving. The doctor also might recommend some exercises that can help with your movement.
Occupational therapist: The pain, stiffness, and fatigue of psoriatic arthritis can make it harder for you to get dressed, cook, drive, sleep, do household chores, enjoy hobbies, and even socialize. Changes to your home and work space to help with your mobility and comfort can make things easier. Occupational therapists will ask about which activities are important to you in your home, office, or school. They can tell you how to make practical changes that can improve your everyday life. You can focus on things that challenge you the most. The occupational therapist can help you:
- Protect your joints from stress and pain
- Find out how to pace yourself to manage your symptoms
- Learn sleep and relaxation techniques
- Come up with strategies to help you at work
- Do exercises to keep range of movement in your joints and keep your muscles strong
- Find out about equipment and changes at work or home to make activities easier
Physical therapist: Treatment for your PsA can include physical therapy to help keep your range of motion and muscle strength. If your muscles are stronger, it can take pressure off your joints. A physical therapist can recommend canes or trekking poles if you need help with walking. They can also suggest changes to your home to make everyday life simpler and safer.
Practical Tips for Your Home and Garden
Organizing your living space is important. Look around your house and see which activities – like cooking, bathing, and chores – may be difficult, frustrating, or painful. Use these practical tips to make living in your house easier:
- Put slip mats in the tub and by the toilet.
- Turn on a light, or have a nightlight for night trips to the bathroom.
- Install grab bars by the tub, shower, and toilet.
- To avoid having to squat, buy a high toilet seat.
- Use a seat in the shower.
- Store appliances, pans, and cooking utensils you use most often on the counter so you don’t have to crouch or bend to get them.
- Don’t put things you use all the time on high or low shelves.
- Get lighter pots and pans.
- Look for kitchen tools that are ergonomic or make what you’re doing easier or more comfortable. Buy cooking utensils with large rubber handles that are easier to grip. Other cooking tools could be a one-handed cutting board or a rocker knife.
- Buy an electric can opener, food processor, or pre-chopped foods.
- Buy a pressure cooker or slow cooker to make meals easier with fewer steps.
- When you have a good day or feel ambitious, prep some meals and freeze for the future.
- Install slip mats on stairs.
- Install (and use) banisters or guard rails.
- Remove throw rugs near stairs.
- Don’t leave clutter near the top, bottom, or on the stairs.
- When gardening, buy smaller bags of soil so they’re easier to lift.
- Try raised flower beds or planting in containers to avoid bending, stooping, or kneeling. Sit when you are working on these beds.
- Choose tools that are easy on your joints. Long-handled tools will keep you from stooping. Easy-to-grip tools are less painful to handle.
- Look for plants that need less trimming, weeding, and fertilizing.
- If you do need to weed, use a kneeling pad or sit on a scooter wagon.
When you work or relax outdoors, remember to protect your skin. The sun’s ultraviolet rays can help improve lesions for some people. But you still have to be careful. Don’t spend too much time in the sun at one time. That can make your psoriasis worse. Wear sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum,” with SPF 30 or greater, that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Slather it on your exposed skin, even on your psoriatic plaques. Try to get a sunscreen for sensitive skin that's also fragrance-free. Some medications that are used to treat psoriatic arthritis, like some retinoids, can increase your risk of sunburn. Ask your doctor if you have any questions about your skin’s possible reaction to sun exposure.
Make It Easy
A good rule for everywhere in your house is to make it easy on yourself. Fatigue is a common symptom of PsA, so it’s important to save your energy. This will allow you to be able to use your energy at the time when there’s something you really want to do.
Instead of constantly bending or stretching, keep a grabber tool handy to reach items. Purchase items in smaller amounts. A large laundry detergent may weigh too much and put strain on your joints. If you have trouble standing, sit when you can. You can even pull up a chair when stacking the dishwasher. Think about what time of day you have the least pain, and then do your chores when you feel your best or are more energetic.
You may need to change your habits to make tasks easier. If you need to carry a laundry basket up or downstairs to get to your laundry room, see if it is possible to relocate the machine to the main floor. The benefits may outweigh the costs. Also, if you have to go downstairs for medicine at night, consider getting a mini-fridge for your bedroom. That way you can have your medicine, a drink, or even a small snack nearby and avoid possible falls.
Check Out a Furry Companion
The right type of pet can serve as a helpful companion if you have psoriatic arthritis. Trained service dogs can do things like open and close doors, pick up dropped items, bring you something from another room, and even help you get dressed. A service animal can stand beside you and steady you as you get up from a chair. Some service dogs specially trained for people who have rheumatoid arthritis wear custom harnesses with handles on top that can help you keep your balance and footing when walking. Unlike a cane, a service dog can be trained to tell when someone starts to lose their balance and help. And this trained dog’s gentle tug can also reduce the amount of energy you need to move forward. Having a service animal may even help you feel more confident to go shopping or traveling, too. Keep in mind: Any animal requires care and upkeep, so make sure you’re prepared for the costs and attention a service animal would need.
Psoriatic arthritis can be uncomfortable at times, but with the right tools, modifications, and help, you can enjoy an active and productive life at home and outdoors.