You can soothe your psoriatic arthritis symptoms -- or even stop them before they start -- with a combo of exercise, medicines, and other treatments.
Your doctor can tell you exactly what you need to do. Chances are, these tactics will be high on their list, right next to taking your medicines.
Are you cautious about exercise? Get out there. Just make sure you stick with what your doctor says is OK for you -- probably low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or biking. Make sure you pace yourself, too.
When you make exercise a habit, you can:
- Ease arthritis symptoms.
- Improve how you move.
- Get stronger and more flexible.
- Keep your weight healthy, which takes pressure off your joints.
- Help your heart.
- Boost your mood.
- Give yourself more energy.
You can work out on your own or with the help of a physical therapist. Warm up first, so your muscles can ease into it.
One of your best options is water therapy, also called hydrotherapy or aqua therapy. It’s an exercise program held in a pool. The water takes some of the weight off your joints, so it may be easier for you to do well.
Whatever exercise you choose, make sure it’s one you'll like enough to do it regularly. Also, try to be active throughout your day. You can garden, give the dog an extra walk, and fit in some stretches while you’re at your kid’s sports practice.
Know Your Triggers
Most people with psoriatic arthritis first develop the skin disease psoriasis. (The conditions are closely related.) In the course of a flare-up, people often show skin symptoms before their psoriatic arthritis starts to flare. Typical symptoms of psoriasis include:
- Skin that dries, cracks, itches, and even bleeds
- Reddish patches of skin covered in silvery scales
- Fingernails and toenails that get small lines (ridges) or holes (pits)
- Sore, itchy, or burning skin
Common triggers for psoriatic flares include:
- Skipping your psoriatic arthritis medication
- Injury to a joint
- Strenuous exercise
- Skin injury
- Bacterial infections like strep throat
- Drinking alcohol
- Changes in the weather
- Certain medications
It often helps to keep a journal of your symptoms along with details of your diet, exercise, stress, and sleep. You can do this in a simple diary you keep in your pocket or on a note-taking app on your smartphone. Then, you and your doctor can help pinpoint possible triggering events so that you can try to avoid them in the future and manage them when they happen.
Use Hot and Cold
Moist heat can relax achy muscles and relieve stiffness and joint pain. You can use a warm towel, hot pack, or take a warm bath or shower.
Coldness can cut back on swelling and ease pain. You can cool down with a bag of ice or with frozen veggies wrapped in a towel.
3 Ways to Protect Your Joints
You don’t have to give up the things you love to do. Just look for ways to do them that take the stress off your joints.
The way you walk, sit, stand, or hold things can help. Change your position at work, at home, and throughout the day. Sit and stand up straight, and don't arch your back. Good posture helps you feel better.
Make these three things a habit:
1. Pace yourself. Switch between heavy, hard, or repetitive tasks and light or easy tasks. Make sure you take breaks.
2. Be kind to your joints. Put as little stress on them as possible. Use larger, stronger joints when you can, instead of smaller ones. For example, wear a shoulder bag rather than a handheld purse.
3. Get an assist. Many helpful devices -- like canes, grab bars, extra-thick pens, luggage carts, or sit/stand stools -- can make your day easier. Ask an occupational therapist which ones would help you.
It's natural to have flare-ups, but then you'll have times where you feel better. If you notice any new symptoms, tell your doctor. That’ll help keep things in check so you don't have more joint damage. You can keep your symptoms under control with treatment.