More than 2 million Americans suffer from psoriatic arthritis, a painful side effect that impacts about 30% of people with psoriasis. Of that 30%, roughly 4 out of 10 say their symptoms take a toll on their everyday activities.
You may think of psoriasis as a skin condition, and that’s correct. Psoriasis happens when your immune system overreacts or acts abnormally, causing inflammation. In your skin, you see that inflammation as red, scaly, itchy patches. But inflammation can also affect your joints, causing pain, stiffness, and swelling.
People with psoriatic arthritis tend to have flare-ups, when their symptoms worsen. While medication can help, there are some steps you can take to manage your symptoms and take back control of your life.
As a leading interventional pain management physician in Franklin, Wisconsin, Cyril Philip, MD, helps patients at Midwest Sports and Interventional Spine learn simple ways to manage psoriatic arthritis joint pain without relying on ever-increasing doses of medication.
Here are five things you can try to relieve your painful symptoms.
Stress is a common trigger for the skin symptoms of psoriasis, so it makes sense that it plays a role in psoriatic arthritis symptoms, too. Stress also alters the way you perceive pain, making achy joints even harder to bear.
Yoga and meditation can help reduce stress, but they’re not the only options. You benefit from breathing exercises that you can perform anywhere — at home, at work, and even in your car.
Taking time out of your daily schedule to read, listen to music, or take part in a hobby are other good alternatives that can help you reduce your stress level.
When it comes to soothing aching joints, ice and heat therapy complement each other: Ice constricts blood vessels to help reduce inflammation, while heat increases circulation to carry off toxins and relax stiff muscles.
Heating pads and hot baths are effective for delivering warmth to your sore joints. For cold therapy, a cold pack is fine, but a bag of frozen peas works well, too. Generally, only apply heat or cold for about 15 minutes at a time for optimal results.
Studies show gentle exercise has multiple benefits for people with psoriatic arthritis. In addition to reducing painful symptoms, exercise helps you battle fatigue that often accompanies arthritis flare-ups.
Regular exercise also can reduce the risk of other medical ailments that can affect people with psoriatic arthritis, like heart disease and obesity. Plus, exercise improves muscle strength and overall well-being.
Working with a physical therapist ensures the exercises are targeted to your needs without stressing your joints.
Sleep helps your joints relax and recover at the end of each day, and it also helps you manage stress better. Unfortunately, sore joints can make getting a good night’s sleep more difficult.
Take over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines before bed, and use hot and cold therapy to ease pain just before bed.
Most people respond well to good sleep hygiene routines — for instance, sticking to a regular bedtime and not taking technology to bed with you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers more sleep hygiene tips here.
Psoriatic arthritis and the symptoms it causes can change over time, and so can the therapies we use to treat painful symptoms.
Regular doctor visits ensure your treatment stays on track, and they also give you and Dr. Philip a chance to explore other treatment options, including massage or assistive devices.
Dr. Philip is also a good source for information about support groups, as well as lifestyle guidance that can help you fine-tune other habits that may be influencing your pain. Dr. Philip works with you to establish a treatment plan and follow-up visits to help you lead a more active, comfortable life.
Like other types of arthritis, psoriatic arthritis responds best when treatment begins early. If you suffer from psoriatic arthritis, Dr. Philip can help you learn ways to manage your symptoms.
To find out more about joint pain treatment at Midwest Sports and Interventional Spine, call 262-232-7161 or book an appointment online today.