The fatigue, lower back pain, and swollen fingers and toes that go along with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) might make you want to throw in the towel on exercise. Severe joint pain can be debilitating, but for many with PsA, daily exercise helps a lot more than it hurts. Talk to your doctor about instituting a fitness plan to help you cope with your symptoms. Staying active can help minimize the effects of the disease.
Psoriatic arthritis can limit range of motion in affected joints, but physical activity, when done correctly, can increase it as well as strengthen your muscles and bones. This strengthening helps support your arthritic joints and might minimize your symptoms. Working out also releases brain chemicals called endorphins, which act as natural pain relievers and can pave the way to a good night’s sleep. Another plus is that physical activity of almost any kind is a natural stress buster. The chronic aches and pains of PsA can be stressful both physically and emotionally. Exercising helps you manage the stress in both cases, which creates a healthy sense of well-being.
Choosing the Right Activity
Staying active and fit is important, but there are some activities that are a little too rough for your ailing joints. The key word to remember when choosing the right activity for you is “impact.” The higher the impact, the more stress you place on your joints. The intermittency of most PsA symptoms might mean that some days you can exercise at a higher impact, but overall you want to work out without the threat of further joint damage. Pick a low-impact activity to play it safe. Walking and swimming are excellent low-impact choices for PsA patients, according to the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). Range of motion exercises and flexibility stretches are also ways to keep your joints healthy without upping the ouch factor. If you’re unsure about what types of exercises are appropriate for your condition, talk to your doctor. Together can you create an exercise regimen that helps maintain your weight and keep your joints fluid. It might even be a little bit fun!
Warming up correctly is perhaps the more important part of fitness. Your muscles take some time to begin to move easily, especially if you haven’t exercised in a while. Add joint pain and tenderness to the mix, and starting slowly becomes a must. Stretching might be all you accomplish in your first few workout sessions, but don’t feel discouraged. You’re doing what’s best for you.
To do a proper warm up, the NPF suggests doing easy range of motion exercises for each joint for a total of about 15 minutes. Bend, flex, and rotate your fingers, toes, elbows, shoulders, knees, and ankles. Work slowly but steadily for maximum benefit. When you can easily stretch for 15 minutes, add gentle weight training, a jog, some laps in the pool, or a brisk walk to your routine.
Work your way up to 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week. But listen to you body. If your joints begin to hurt after 10 minutes, take a step back; perform three sets of 10-minute stretches instead of a longer workout session. The important part of staying active is to keep at it, no matter what.