Psoriatic Arthritis + Exercise
Fitness expert Aaron Lerner has tips for staying fit, minimizing pain
I have psoriatic arthritis in my feet and ankles. What exercises would you suggest that will help minimize pain in these joints?
Even if your arthritis is debilitating to the point that mobility has already been lost, it is still essential to perform simple exercises that aim to move each joint through a range of motion that is tolerable for you.
These exercises are particularly important for arthritis patients who—because of intense or chronic pain or swelling—tend to have difficulty moving their joints through their full range. If walking is an option, it would be an excellent exercise choice, as it helps build strength and maintain joint flexibility. Otherwise, you could start with simple heel raises or foot flexions and extensions, as well as slight rolling, in and out, of the ankles. The goal should be to maximize range of motion, muscle tone and conditioning without causing increased inflammation.
Before I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis I was fairly active. I’d like to ease back into exercise. How should I modify my regimen?
First, don’t fall victim to the diagnosis alone. If you were active before you had psoriatic arthritis, try to maintain a regimen as normal as your arthritis will permit. Practice “listening” to your body—become more intuitive about the types of activities, foods, habits, etc., that tend to induce flare-ups or pain. Generally speaking, cycling—both indoor and outdoor—is a good, low-impact option, as long as you pay close attention to proper bike fit and pedaling technique. Here are three activities that can be excellent options for people with psoriatic arthritis:
- Yoga can relieve pain, relax stiff muscles and ease sore joints. Using controlled movements, pressures, stretches and deep breathing relaxation, yoga helps improve range of motion.
- Warm-water exercise is an excellent way to build up strength, ease stiff joints and relax sore muscles. Water helps support the body while the joints are moved through their full range of motion.
- Tai Chi is a gentle martial arts exercise with origins in ancient China. While performing fluid and flowing circular movements, you can relax, maintain mobility and improve range of motion.
What’s the best way for me to gauge how much exercise is too much?
First, put into perspective how much exercise you are currently doing. The amount, type and intensity of your exercise will vary with how active your psoriasis is. They will also depend on which joints are inflamed. If you experience prolonged pain or swelling for more than a few hours after exercise, you may cause a flare-up. So adjust that exercise or rest that joint. There is no specific amount of exercise that is acceptable for every person or at every time.
How your body feels is going to be the best indicator of whether you need to back off a bit or are leaving room for more. As soon as any type of activity becomes less than challenging, it’s safe to assume your body has adapted, and needs something new to keep from going stale.
Cautionary note: Specific exercise plans and goals should be discussed with a qualified health or fitness professional. There may be certain exercises that may be off-limits for reasons outside of my knowledge. The duration and form of exercise recommended for each individual will vary depending on things such as the type of arthritis, joints involved, level of inflammation, stability of joints, joint replacements, etc.
— Aaron Lerner