Living With Psoriatic Arthritis

Strategies to help you take back your life.

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a challenge, not a roadblock.

Julie and Nora Greenwood live with psoriatic arthritis.

Physical Activity

Exercise keeps your joints and tendons loose and limber and helps you reduce inflammation and pain. Building up your muscles decreases the workload on your joints. Anything that gets your heart pumping and your joints moving will help to lower your risk of developing a comorbid (related) condition. (To learn more about the comorbidities related to psoriatic arthritis, request our free quick guide.)

When you set out on an exercise program, you don’t have to aim for Olympic gold. If you were active before you had PsA, try to maintain a regimen as close to your old normal as possible. If you were inactive, start small. In general, people with PsA can enjoy walking, indoor and outdoor cycling, swimming or warm-water exercise, yoga, tai chi, and qigong. A physical therapist or a qualified fitness or health professional can help you create an exercise plan that makes sense for you.

Whichever exercises you choose, your muscles will work extra hard at the beginning. After exercising you might experience soreness. You might have a hard time cooling down. You might even feel worse the next day. This is your body telling you to ease up! Listen to your body to help you learn about the types of activities that tend to induce discomfort or pain.

The opposite can also happen. As soon as any type of activity becomes less than challenging, it’s safe to assume your body has adapted and that it’s time for a new challenge.

Managing Pain

The inflammation caused by PsA can have short-term effects such as pain and swelling. Inflammation can also cause long-term damage to your joints. Stress is another aggravation. The combination of inflammation and stress can make you even more sensitive to pain.

Talk to your health care provider about the following medications for managing pain, their interactions with other treatments for PsA and their possible short- and long-term side effects.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen as well as prescription drugs. NSAIDs help to decrease inflammation, joint pain, and stiffness. They can also make it easier for you to move.

A health care provider considers stronger medications when NSAIDs and aspirin fall short in their results.

Biologics target specific parts of the immune system (unlike traditional oral systemic drugs, which impact the entire immune system). Although biologics interfere with the process that causes the painful PsA inflammation, you might have to wait at least three months until a biologic begins to reduce your pain. However, recent studies show that biologics very quickly demonstrate a positive effect on your mood. People with PsA are at greater risk of depression, and depression can heighten your sensitivity to pain.

Other Medications for Pain

When the pain of PsA is severe or when it does not go away with traditional PsA treatments, you may want to talk to your health care provider about medication that helps reduce your sensitivity to pain.

Prescription pain medications such as Gabapentin and Pregabalin are used to treat neurological pain. Certain anti-depressants called noradrenergic and specific serotonergics (NaSSAs) can reduce your sensitivity to pain as well. Capsaicin, a compound found in chili peppers, has a numbing effect on pain receptors. Applying a local anesthetic like prilocaine can help minimize the initial burning sensation of capsaicin.

Alternative Treatments for Pain

Some studies show acupuncture as a valuable option for pain relief. There are no side effects.

Researchers have not studied the impact of meditation on people with PsA, but there is some evidence that practicing what’s called mindfulness meditation can relieve stress.

How to Hold a Job and Handle PsA

It’s important to understand your disease, your rights and the resources available to you.

Schedule a meeting with your supervisor at a time when neither of you is under pressure. Describe how your PsA may affect your performance, including scheduling doctor appointments and the use of assistive devices. The goal of this talk is to find the workplace adjustments that will benefit the company, your co-workers and yourself. It’s better to ask for support or adaptations from your employer than to try to push through it on your own and risk a flare-up.

“Assistive devices” covers everything you need to be comfortable and more productive on the job. You might need something as simple as additional breaks or assistance with lifting heavy objects or adjusting the height of your chair and desk and the distance to your computer monitor. You might need equipment, such as switching from a mouse to a track pad or using a writing bird to help you grip a pen. Research options and prices ahead of time. If possible, try new equipment at home.

Your employer may not be required to purchase expensive equipment for you. However, tax deductions and/or tax credits may be available to certain employers who provide accommodations and/or jobs for people with disabilities.

Request a free Workplace Guide with tips on how to manage your disease on the job.

PsA E-Kit

Get quick guides on what you need to know about psoriatic arthritis and how to live the healthiest you.

Order this free e-kit today

More Resources

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NPF Patient Navigation Center

NPF’s Patient Navigation Center can help you understand your employment rights and the resources available to you.

Connect with the Patient Navigation Center
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Discrimination in the Workplace

We have free resources and information for people who may be experiencing discrimination in the workplace. Know that you are not alone, and you have rights.

Learn what you can do
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Resources for Applying for Disability

If your psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis is interfering with your ability to work — like your ability to walk, stand or use your hands, you may consider applying for disability.

Learn more about applying for disability

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