With joint pain and inflammation from psoriatic arthritis (PsA), everyday movements can be extremely uncomfortable. In some cases, regular activity can even be unbearable. While it’s tempting to rest your achy joints, too much rest can actually do more harm than good. Over time, your joints will soften so that activities may become even more painful.
Doctors recommend regular exercise as a means of helping ease PsA symptoms by reducing pain-causing inflammation. Plus, it can aid in preventing the number of arthritis flare-ups you might experience.
But if you’re too uncomfortable to move, what can you do? Read on to learn about eight of the ways you can move better with PsA.
1. Start off slow
Just as it’s difficult to get moving when you’re not used to exercise, it can also be tempting to overdo physical activity. After all, you may be excited to get in shape again, and to improve your overall health. But jumping into an exercise routine too quickly can exacerbate PsA symptoms and leave you on the sidelines. It’s best to start in five- to 10-minute increments, and to build up from there. This way, your joints are slowly conditioned and can better support your movements as you do them more often.
2. Be flexible first
The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends 15 minutes of stretching as the core of your daily workout. Flexibility exercises help prep your joints for more intense workouts, and these types of stretching routines can also help prevent injuries.
For a more comprehensive workout, consider yoga or tai chi. These also carry the added benefit of deep breathing exercises, which can help alleviate stress and improve sleep. As with any other type of workout, yoga and tai chi are best practiced on a regular basis to reap the most benefits. Consider signing up for a gentle yoga class at a local studio or gym, and ask the instructor how you might modify some of the movements to accommodate your joint pain.
3. Walk toward improved symptoms
Walking is perhaps one of the best activities you can do with PsA. This is especially true if you are new to exercise, or haven’t done a lot of physical activity in a while. Walking doesn’t require any special movements. It’s also the most versatile exercise that can be done almost anywhere. Plus, because walking is a low-impact activity, it’s easier on your already-achy joints.
Yet the key to walking, like all forms of exercise, is to start off gradually and work your way up to more intensity or longer stretches of time. Stay close to home until you know your walking limits. You might also consider soliciting the help of a walking buddy for safety and accountability.
4. Use the resistance of water
Swimming is another low-impact cardiovascular workout that is preferable for arthritis because of the added resistance of the water. Even walking around in a swimming pool is a beneficial workout. If the fear of irritating skin patches is preventing you from swimming, try to limit your time in the water to start. Follow up each swim session with a quick warm shower (not hot), and moisturize your skin immediately.
5. Try cycling
Cycling also serves as good way to get a low-impact workout. Just be sure you have a bike that fits your size. You may want to consider a unisex frame to make mounting and dismounting easier. Stick to paved bike paths to avoid impact on your joints. And as with other types of exercise, you’ll want to start slow, then gradually increase distance and speed.
6. Build muscle safely
Although there is natural resistance in some forms of aerobic exercise, such as walking and swimming, you may consider moving up to strength-training exercises to build muscle. Aside from helping to burn calories, muscle mass can also help protect your joints from stress and injury. Hand-held weights and resistance bands can help build muscle without over-stretching already painful joints.
7. Wear the right supportive gear
Moving around comfortably is contingent on having the right gear that can support your joints. Knee braces for walks can support knee joints, while walking shoes can support joints in your knees, hips, and back.
The right clothing should also be included in your exercise gear. Choose loose cotton clothing that won’t irritate your skin, and be sure to wear layers in cooler weather rather than single bulky items that can trap sweat.
8. Lose excess weight
With PsA, your joints may already be inflamed and achy. Extra body weight can compound the problem by placing added pressure on already irritated joints. You might consider talking to your doctor about ways you can safely lose weight with PsA treatment. In addition to exercise, they may recommend specific dietary considerations that can help.
Keep in mind that safe weight loss is gradual. Speed up the process through starvation diets, and you’ll likely gain the weight back as a result of a disrupted metabolism.
Move with your doctor’s advice in mind
Moving around regularly is just one of the keys to improved well-being with PsA. Before starting any new exercise, be sure to discuss plans with your doctor first. They might have some safety concerns, as well as helpful tips that can ensure your success.
PsA can make moving uncomfortable. But once you gradually build your activity level, you’ll likely reap the benefits when it’s combined with your ongoing treatment plan.