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Put a Stop to Psoriatic Arthritis Pain

Help for pain and damage prevention

Read Video Transcript »

5 Ways to Gain Control of Your Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis isn’t something that you can just shrug off. It’s something that stays with you, and can sometimes feel like an unwelcome companion. But don’t fret. Here are five ways to take back your life and live better with psoriatic arthritis.

If you have moderate to severe psoriatic arthritis, you can feel like you’re reaching out for help but not getting the answers — or relief — you need. But don’t give up.

These five things can help you feel less in the dark and get exactly what you’re looking for.

1. Keep a list of running questions for your healthcare team.

We’re all forgetful, sometimes. But when it comes to meeting with your doctor, dermatologist, or rheumatologist, forgetting to ask something can mean the difference between leaving the appointment dissatisfied and leaving with a proactive treatment plan. Asking the right kinds of questions is fundamental. And some studies have even found that the more questions you ask during an appointment, the better! A week before your appointment, start jotting down all your questions and concerns. There are list-making or organizational smartphone apps that can help you with this. Keep your list handy and add things as you think of them.

2. Try a new way to manage your stress and pain levels.

When it comes to managing pain, you may think that being a couch potato with a warm compress is your best bet. But research shows that participating in low-impact activities can be beneficial to your sore joints. If you haven’t tried yoga or water aerobics, now’s the time. A recent survey found that the number of Americans practicing yoga has increased 50 percent since 2012.

3. Talk to your work manager or human resources about your condition.  

We get it: Having psoriatic arthritis isn’t something you necessarily want to broadcast to everyone. But you can ask your manager or human resources if any ergonomic equipment is available in your workplace to help you avoid any musculoskeletal discomfort.

4. Keep your scheduled appointments, but make time for fun social activities too.

Having a chronic condition like psoriatic arthritis can be a burden on your life and on your calendar too. From checkup appointments to workouts to dermatologist visits to physical therapy sessions, it can seem like there’s little time for anything, well, fun. But making time for your family and friends and doing the things you enjoy is an important part of your treatment plan. After all, added stress can cause more swelling on your joints.

5. Start slowly by setting realistic goals.

What’s the secret to living a healthy, happy, and productive life with psoriatic arthritis? You! By setting yourself up for success, you have the ability to improve how you feel. Just don’t fall into the trap of having lofty, impractical intentions. Start slowly. Maybe your first goal is to join a yoga studio. Follow that goal with going two times a week. Then progress and make another reachable goal, like committing to cook one more meal at home each week. Pushing closer to and reaching each milestone can make you feel more empowered about your health and wellness journey.

There you have it: Five ways to gain control of your psoriatic arthritis. Because while stiffness and joint pain may have you feeling down, there’s always a positive light at the other side of the tunnel.

Journal of General Internal Medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1496869/

Harvard Health Publications http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/new-survey-reveals-the-rapid-rise-of-yoga-and-why-some-people-still-havent-tried-it-201603079179

Arthritis Foundation http://www.arthritis.org/toolkits/better-living/about/psoriatic-arthritis/healthy-habits.php

Mayo Clinic http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/psoriatic-arthritis/manage/ptc-20233970

National Psoriasis Foundation https://www.psoriasis.org/life-with-psoriasis/stress

Psoriasis doesn’t only affect your skin. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, about 30 percent of people with psoriasis also develop a painful joint condition called psoriatic arthritis. Just as your immune system attacks your skin to produce a scaly rash, it also can attack your joints, leaving them swollen and inflamed.

The pain of psoriatic arthritis is usually centered in the fingers and toes. You also might notice soreness in your wrists, knees, ankles, neck, and lower back. The pain gets worse when you’re under stress or you have a flare-up of psoriasis. In between these flare-ups are pain-free periods called remissions.

Don’t suffer through your pain. Psoriatic arthritis does more than just hurt. Over time it can damage your joints. If you don’t get treated, you may lose the ability to use the affected joints. Make an appointment with your rheumatologist to talk about treatment options.

Here’s a guide to help you manage psoriatic arthritis pain and stop joint damage in its tracks.

Medicines for psoriatic arthritis pain

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Your doctor might first recommend treating your psoriatic arthritis pain with ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), or naproxen (Aleve). These drugs relieve pain and bring down swelling in the joints. You can buy some NSAIDs over the counter. Stronger versions of these drugs are available with a prescription.

Celecoxib (Celebrex) is another type of NSAID called a COX-2 inhibitor. It’s only available by prescription. COX-2 inhibitors relieve pain and inflammation with less stomach damage than other NSAIDs, but they can still cause heart problems and other side effects.

PDE4 inhibitors

This is a new class of drugs approved for psoriatic arthritis. Currently, apremilast (Otezla) is the only drug available that falls in this category.

Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)

DMARDs don’t just relieve pain — they also slow down joint damage from psoriatic arthritis. You take these drugs by mouth, through an injection, or directly into a vein.

DMARDs include:

  • leflunomide (Arava)
  • cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune)
  • methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall)
  • sulfasalazine (Azulfidine)

DMARDs can take a few weeks to start working. Because they dampen the immune system response, they can lower your body’s ability to fight infections.

Biologic drugs are a newer form of DMARD. They prevent certain substances in your blood from launching the immune response against your joints.

Biologics called TNF-alpha inhibitors target a protein called tumor necrosis factor-alpha, which leads to joint inflammation. TNF-alpha inhibitors include:

Secukinmab (Cosentyx) is not a TNF inhibitor, but is an interleukin-17A inhibitor.

Other psoriatic arthritis drugs

If NSAIDs and DMARDs don’t help with your pain, your doctor might suggest one or more of these medicines:

  • antidepressants: Amitriptyline (Elavil, Endep), desipramine (Norpramin, Pertofrane), and imipramine (Tofranil, Norfranil) can relieve chronic pain from conditions like psoriatic arthritis.
  • topical pain relievers: You can rub these creams, gels, and ointments on your skin over the painful joints. Capsaicin is one type of topical pain reliever that contains an active ingredient found in chili peppers. It works by decreasing pain signals.
  • steroid medicines: These medicines are injected straight into the joint to bring down swelling and relieve pain.
I was covered, over 90 percent of my body, with psoriasis. I was also debilitated with osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis. I will always recommend doing research on treatment and medications. Side effects have been hard on my body.

Non-drug methods to manage your pain

Medicine is one way to relieve psoriatic arthritis pain. You can also try some non-drug therapies to ease your discomfort:

Acupuncture

In this treatment, long, thin needles are inserted into the skin. The needles trigger the release of natural painkilling chemicals in the body. Acupuncture is considered to be safe and has few side effects.

Exercise

When you hurt, often the last thing you want to do is work out. Yet exercise is one of the best things you can do for your joints. Staying fit keeps joints limber. It also helps you lose weight, which takes pressure off your joints. The best exercises for psoriatic arthritis are those that are gentle on joints, such as yoga, tai chi, and swimming. Working out in warm water can also help soothe joint soreness. Ask your doctor which exercises are best for you. The doctor might recommend that you see a physical therapist to help you start an exercise program. The physical therapist can teach you how to do each movement safely and correctly.

Heat and cold

Both heat and cold can help with pain, so choose which one works best for you. Applying a cold pack to your sore joints helps numb the pain. A heating pad will soothe tight muscles.

Meditation

This practice helps you relax and focus on your breath to relieve stress. Less stress may mean less psoriatic arthritis pain.

Rest

Don’t try to do too much. When you’re in pain, take a break and rest to take the stress off your joints.

Supports

Wear a brace or splint to relieve pressure on sore joints.

Customize your treatment

Work with your doctor to find the best pain relief option for you. It might take some trial and error, but eventually you should find something that works. As a last resort if your joints are badly damaged, you may need surgery to fix or replace them.

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