11 Easy Hand and Foot Exercises for Psoriatic Arthritis

These simple, gentle moves can reduce joint pain and increase flexibility, strength, and range of motion.

hand using exercise ball photo illustration
Squeezing and releasing a squishy ball can be good for your fingers.?Getty Images; Everyday Health

The pain, swelling, and stiffness of psoriatic arthritis can be misery for the distal joints, the ones closest to fingernails and toenails. The result can be decreased flexibility, strength, and range of motion in the hands and feet.

“Some people may have muscle fatigue and morning stiffness that lasts for several hours and gets in the way of daily functioning,” says?Ronald Rapoport, MD, chief of rheumatology at Southcoast Health in Fall River, Massachusetts.

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Though exercises for psoriatic arthritis in hands and feet may not seem very appealing when you’re feeling stiff, swollen, and achy, research shows that physical activity can help improve symptoms.

Movement keeps tendons loose and can also lessen pain and inflammation. And when muscles are strong, joints don’t have to work as hard,?according to the National Psoriasis Foundation.

Psoriatic Arthritis Symptoms in Hands and Feet: What to Know

Psoriatic arthritis can involve the hands and feet in several ways. In severe cases, fingers and toes may resemble swollen sausages, a condition called dactylitis. Nails may also be affected, becoming pitted or separating from the nail bed.

Another form of psoriatic arthritis inflammation, called enthesitis, can cause tender spots where tendons and ligaments join bones, resulting in pain at the back of the heel, the sole of the foot, around the elbows, or in other areas of the body.

While doctors prescribe psoriatic arthritis medications like biologics to prevent or slow permanent joint damage, exercise can help maintain joint function, says Lauren Smith, a physical therapist and care coordinator at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.

You can do the simple exercises below on your own at home, although you should always check with your doctor before beginning a new regimen.

RELATED: 3-Step Fitness Plan for Psoriatic Arthritis

Exercises for Psoriatic Arthritis in Hands and Fingers

  1. Increase your range of motion by making a fist and then opening and closing your hand. To strengthen muscles in the hand, add resistance with a small, squishy ball or rolled-up sock.
  2. Put your fingers in a bowl of dry rice and then gently open and close your hand, Smith says.
  3. Touch your thumb to each of your fingertips on the same hand, suggests The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance. Go from the index finger to the pinkie and back again.
  4. Finger “walking” improves flexibility and range of motion, and strengthens the muscles in the hand. To do it, place your hand palm down on a table with the fingers slightly spread apart. Walk your index finger toward your thumb, keeping it straight and shifting the finger sideways. Continue this exercise by moving each finger toward your thumb.

Repeat each exercise 10 times daily.

RELATED: Best Stretches for Healthy Joints With Psoriatic Arthritis

Exercises for Psoriatic Arthritis in Wrists

  1. Improve your range of motion by letting your arm rest on a table and dangling your wrist over the edge. Curl your wrist upward so that your knuckles are toward the ceiling, then curl your wrist downward. Next, make a fist and move your hand laterally to the left and then to the right. Repeat 10 times daily. To add a strengthening component, add a filled water bottle or small weight. “Do this every other day because your muscles can get sore,” Smith says.
  2. To work on wrist flexibility, put your whole arm on the table so that your elbow is straight. Grab your fingers with the opposite hand and gently pull your fingers back so they point straight up. Hold for 30 seconds; repeat twice more. Then pull the fingers down, hold, and repeat three times. You can do this daily, Smith says.

Exercises for Psoriatic Arthritis in Feet

Smith recommends putting your toes to work with their own daily range-of-motion exercises.

  1. Sitting on a towel or pillowcase, scrunch the far edge of the fabric with your toes for two to three minutes.
  2. Pick up about 20 marbles with your toes, one at a time, and move them to another spot, recommends the?American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS).
  3. Draw the alphabet from A to Z with each foot. Sit or lie down so that your foot doesn’t touch the floor as you move it. If you can, trace the alphabet backward as well.
  4. Do toe and heel raises. Holding on to a solid surface like a countertop for balance, lift your toes off the ground slowly 10 times, then rest for a minute and lift your heel 10 times. This should be done every other day.
  5. To improve flexibility, the AAOS recommends daily calf stretches, like a runner’s stretch. Stand facing a wall, with your hands flat on the surface. Lean forward with one leg, slightly bending the knee. Straighten the other leg behind you, with your heel flat and toes pointed in slightly. Focus on pressing both hips forward as your heels remain flat on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds, then relax for 30 seconds. Repeat three times on each side, but focus on the affected leg, Smith says.

Additional reporting by Julie Marks.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

Everyday Health follows strict sourcing guidelines to ensure the accuracy of its content, outlined in our editorial policy. We use only trustworthy sources, including peer-reviewed studies, board-certified medical experts, patients with lived experience, and information from top institutions.


  • Living With Psoriatic Arthritis. National Psoriasis Foundation.
  • Keeping Active. The Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance.
  • Foot and Ankle Conditioning Program [PDF]. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 2017.
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