Are you having trouble managing your chronic psoriatic arthritis joint pain? Continue reading to learn six ways to manage this pain to help you feel better in the long run.
Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune condition, meaning the immune system misidentifies healthy cells in the body as foreign invaders and attacks them. This causes inflammation and swelling within the joints, leading to symptoms like chronic joint pain and stiffness. With psoriatic arthritis, these symptoms often affect the smaller joints in the fingers, wrists, toes, and ankles, as well as the knees and lower back.
While there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, treatment is often the first line of defense to help relieve symptoms, prevent progression, and improve quality of life. “The use of disease-modifying and targeted therapies can be the best route to relief of joint pain when joint inflammation occurs,” explains Susan M. Goodman, MD, a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
There are a variety of treatments for psoriatic arthritis to choose from, and options have evolved through the years. According to Dr. Goodman, recent advances in psoriatic arthritis medication and targeted therapies now offer more expanded choices than ever before.
In addition to taking your psoriatic arthritis treatment, adding these steps to your overall management plan can help you find relief for symptoms like chronic joint pain. Start with these six expert-approved strategies.
1. Use Heat and Cold Therapies
Heat and cold therapies are both easy and inexpensive ways to help relieve joint pain and can be used at home or at work.
“Heat and cold provide symptom relief,” says Goodman, “and cold therapy can help you cool down after exercise, which may make sticking to an exercise regimen easier.” This is an important consideration, as staying active can help you manage psoriatic arthritis.
Cold therapy, such as an ice pack or ice bath, restricts blood vessels and can help dull nerve sensations that contribute to joint pain and help reduce inflammation and swelling. In a pinch, you can use a bag of frozen vegetables on aching joints.
Heat therapy, such as a heating pad or hot bath, helps increase circulation throughout your body. This allows the blood to flow more freely to your joints and surrounding muscles, loosening them up. Heat therapy is especially helpful for stiff joints.
2. Stay Active and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Exercising regularly can be one of the best ways to manage chronic joint pain related to psoriatic arthritis. A study published in November 2017 in the journal Clinical Rheumatology found that a regular exercise regimen reduced pain and improved physical function in people living with psoriatic arthritis.
Regular exercise can also help you reach and maintain a healthy weight, which is important for managing chronic joint pain. Carrying extra pounds can tax the joints, particularly in the knees and hips.
Depending on the severity of your condition, certain exercises may be better suited for you. For example, if you experience pain in your toe, ankle, or knee joints, water aerobics is a great activity to try that doesn’t put stress or pressure on these joints. Daily stretching and range-of-motion exercises may also be beneficial.
Meet with a physical therapist, who can tailor an exercise routine to your needs. “For instance, if you’ve lost range of motion in your shoulder, a physical therapist can help design a regimen to help you regain that,” explains Goodman. “For those with low back inflammation, a core-strengthening regimen can be very useful in maintaining symptom control and mobility.”
Just make sure take it slow, and don’t overdo it. “While joint inflammation is active, rigorous exercise can increase pain,” says Goodman. “I advise people who have psoriatic arthritis to trust their bodies when they work out, and if an exercise is painful or uncomfortable, don’t do it.”
3. Strengthen Muscles
When you think of exercise, you likely picture aerobic activities, like walking or dancing. But building up muscle strength can help eliminate unnecessary stress and pressure from aching joints. The stronger your muscles are, the better they’re able to support your joints and protect them from swelling and injury.
Weight training can be as simple as using hand weights to do bicep curls and shoulder presses or using your own body weight to do squats or improve your core strength. The Arthritis Foundation recommends lighter weights and higher repetitions to avoid aggravating psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
4. Try Alternative Therapies
Anecdotally, many people who have psoriatic arthritis have turned to complementary or alternative therapies to help with symptoms like chronic joint pain, though the evidence to support their benefits is lacking, explains Goodman. So you may need to test them out to see if they help your symptoms. Try experimenting with:
Massage therapy, which may help soothe joint pain and stiffness and improve range of motion — though you’ll want reschedule an appointment if a flare crops up, as your joints may be especially tender and sensitive, recommends the Arthritis Foundation.
Hydrotherapy, or taking warm baths or using a warm-water pool or sauna — which may reduce swelling and inflammation.
Acupuncture, where needles are inserted into strategic parts of the body and can help stimulate and release natural painkillers such as adenosine, endorphins, and serotonin.
Turmeric, a spice used in traditional medicine, has been thought to help reduce inflammation.
5. Get Assistance
A number of assistive devices exist to help make life with psoriatic arthritis easier. Consider stocking up on some of these essentials:
Automatic can opener. With decreased range of motion and swelling or deformities in the fingers or hands, this simple tool can come in handy to help make meal prep easier.
Step stools. This can help eliminate uncomfortable reaching throughout the house. Just make sure you get one with good stability to ensure your safety.
Braces or splints. Wearing a brace or splint can provide support for affected joints like the knees, wrists, ankles, and elbows.
Disability license plate or placard. No more waiting for a closer spot, hiking across uneven parking lot surfaces, or negotiating the tight squeeze between parked cars. Ask your doctor if you are eligible for a disability license.
6. Follow Your Treatment Plan
This may seem obvious, but following your prescribed treatment plan isn’t always as easy as it seems. Many people overexert their joints, stick with lifestyle habits that make their condition worse, forget to take their medications, or even stop taking medications altogether.
If you’re having trouble sticking with your psoriatic arthritis treatment, talk to your doctor. Together, you can make adjustments to find a treatment plan that fit your lifestyle and needs.
“Part of my role as a rheumatologist is to help you vet new information and identify which treatments have scientific support — and which do not,” adds Goodman.