Morning stiffness is a common symptom for people with psoriatic arthritis (PsA).

PsA occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your joints and skin. It’s unclear why some people’s immune systems act this way, but genes and environmental exposures may play a role.

If you have PsA, you don’t have to let morning joint stiffness derail your daily routine. Here, find out why morning stiffness occurs in people with PsA and learn how to get relief.

Joint stiffness lasting 30 minutes or more is common in PsA. PsA also causes swelling in the fingers and toes.

These symptoms are often worse if you’ve been immobile for a period of time, such as while you’re sitting or sleeping. This is why you may experience morning stiffness after being inactive all night.

This stiffness may occur in your hands, feet, or lower back. It can be on both sides of your body or only one.

Other symptoms of PsA include:

  • painful muscles and tendons
  • fatigue
  • eye redness
  • eye pain
  • scaly skin patches
  • flaky scalp

Symptoms of PsA range from mild to severe and can worsen in flare-ups. It is also possible for PsA to go into remission, in which case symptoms go away entirely for a period of time.

It may not be possible to prevent morning stiffness or joint immobility entirely, but you can take steps to reduce the severity and recover from the stiffness more quickly.

Lifestyle changes for people with PsA won’t eliminate the condition. They are also unlikely to stop or reverse any flares. But they may help you cope with the effects of PsA.

Lifestyle changes aim to:

  • reduce pain
  • increase mobility
  • enhance your quality of life

Get regular exercise

Exercise has several benefits for people with PsA. Regularly using the affected joints can help improve mobility.

Plus, exercise can boost your energy. It may also help you lose excess weight, which can reduce joint stiffness.

However, it is important to avoid irritating the joints and tendons by overworking them. Look for low impact exercise options, like biking, walking, and swimming.

Relieve stress

Stress and tension can worsen the quality of life for people with PsA. This is because they can cause flares and make symptoms more severe.

However, you can take steps to try to relieve stress and tension and prevent these effects. For example, a brief meditation before bed may help reduce anxiety and worry while you sleep. This can help you sleep better, too.

Yoga or stretching can also help ease tension and stress. They have the added benefit of improving flexibility in the joints, which can help the joints rebound from immobility faster.

Maintain a healthy sleep schedule

It might seem counterintuitive to sleep more when sleep is what causes your muscles to stiffen. However, when you sleep, your body naturally reduces inflammation and rejuvenates itself.

You need regular sleep and plenty of it. The recommended amount of sleep for an adult is more than 7 hours. Adequate, uninterrupted sleep may help reduce inflammation and joint stiffness all day, including in the mornings.

In addition to lifestyle changes, there are steps you can take each morning to make overcoming the stiffness easier.

Use hot packs

You may be tempted to step into a hot shower or bath, but hot water may irritate psoriasis patches on the skin or scalp.

Instead, get heat to your stiff joints with hot packs or a heating pad. The heat helps ease muscle soreness and improve joint mobility.

Alternatively, ice packs may also help reduce joint pain or swelling.

Wake up earlier

If you have somewhere to be, give yourself extra time to wake up in the morning. Bump your alarm ahead 30 to 60 minutes, so you can recover your from morning stiffness without disrupting your routine.

To also get adequate sleep, this may mean you need to go to bed earlier.

Practice stretching

Stretching and yoga are both good for reducing stress. Even if you don’t need to relieve stress, these practices can be beneficial for your joints and mobility.

Here’s one to try:

  1. While lying in bed, gently pull your fingers back and away from your palms. If gripping each finger is too difficult, use the palm of the opposite hand to push the fingers back gently.
  2. Hold for 3 seconds and release.
  3. Then, turn each finger and joint in circles, forward and backward. This can increase lubrication in the joints so you recover more quickly.

Warm up your bedroom

A cool bedroom is best for sleeping, but it may make your joints stiffer when you wake up. If you have a timed thermostat, set it to increase the temperature in your bedroom a few degrees a couple hours before you plan to wake up. This can help reduce stiffness.

If you have PsA, your doctor will likely prescribe medication to treat PsA. These treatments include:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Ibuprofen and naproxen are two common NSAIDs. These medications help control and reduce joint pain and swelling.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). These medications help reduce inflammation and slow the progression of PsA to prevent joint damage.
  • Biologics. These are designed to target and block or reduce the effects of specific proteins in the immune system that cause inflammation.
  • Steroids. These are typically injected directly into joints to help reduce inflammation.
  • Immunosuppressants. PsA may be the result of an overactive immune system. Immunosuppressants help calm this response to reduce symptoms.

In addition to these medications, your doctor may suggest supplements to reduce PsA symptoms. These include:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Research from 2020 shows that omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help reduce inflammation as well as pain. This can improve joint mobility.
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D supplements can help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. A 2021 study found that large doses of the vitamin could help without causing serious side effects.

If you have been diagnosed with PsA, you should have regular checkups with your doctor to monitor the condition and its impact on your joint mobility and overall health.

If you notice symptoms worsening significantly or they begin to interfere with your daily life, make an appointment with your doctor.

They may be able to help you identify possible flare triggers to avoid. The doctor may also be able to adjust your medication to reduce short-term symptoms during flare-ups.

Morning stiffness is a common symptom for people with PsA. The joint stiffness and lack of mobility frequently happens after sitting or sleeping for several hours or more.

PsA can be difficult to treat, and symptoms may worsen rapidly. There is no singular universal treatment for PsA, and your treatment may change depending on how well your symptoms are managed and how frequently you experience flares.

Lifestyle changes and medication can help reduce the effects of morning stiffness, so you can recover more quickly and get your day going.