6 Tips to Make Life With Psoriatic Arthritis Easier

An occupational therapist shares advice on how to keep doing the things you love without taxing your joints.

man and woman stopping to retie comfortable shoes
The right footwear will support affected joints in the feet or ankles.iStock

When you have psoriatic arthritis, symptoms such as joint pain, stiffness, and swelling (with a side of fatigue) can affect your day-to-day life and make simple activities more challenging.

Although the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis often start with swelling and pain in the hands, they can occur in any area of the body, says Francis C. Luk, MD, a rheumatologist at AdventHealth in Hendersonville, North Carolina. “Feet, knees, or ankles — pretty much any joint can be involved in psoriatic arthritis,” he says.

Not only can psoriatic arthritis symptoms themselves keep you from doing the things you love, but so can the fear of overdoing it and triggering a flare.

“People who have psoriatic arthritis often don’t know what will be helpful or hurtful for their body. They may be afraid that doing things might make their condition worse,” says Deividas Jeskevicius, an occupational therapist (OT) at the Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation in Vernon, New Jersey.

That’s where an OT can be very helpful, he explains. “People shouldn’t have to try to figure out what they can safely do on their own,” he says. “It’s our responsibility as therapists to work with each person so that they are able to participate in meaningful life activities.”

Exercise can help ease joint pain and stiffness. What strategies do you use for motivation to get moving?

Why You Should Keep Moving

Psoriatic arthritis is painful, and it can cause you to avoid activities. But when you move less, it causes a cycle of pain and inactivity, says Jeskevicius. “That can lead to depression and more perceived pain,” he says.

Movement is essential for people who have psoriatic arthritis. As the saying goes, “Motion is lotion,” says Jeskevicius. “I don’t try to steer people from not doing something; instead, I look for ways to help them do those things comfortably,” he explains.

That can happen through rehabilitation or adaptive techniques to keep doing the activities you love, he says. “We work to find pain-free ways to get back to what you enjoy doing,” he adds.

Many people are surprised to find that in most cases, these solutions can be quite simple to implement and quickly become second nature, says Jeskevicius. “These life hacks can be little things that actually make a big difference in your quality of life.”

Not sure where to start? These tips can help make your life easier and more enjoyable when you have psoriatic arthritis.

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1. Wear the Right Shoes

“Psoriatic arthritis often affects the joints of the feet or ankles, which can cause pain and swelling,” says Dr. Luk.

The right footwear can help you avoid additional, unnecessary pain, says Jeskevicius. “You want shoes with extra cushion. Running shoes with a lot of cushioning and support, such as Hoka brand shoes, can be helpful.”

The right insoles can also provide the arch and heel support you need to stay as comfortable as possible when you’re on your feet, says Jeskevicius.

If these measures don’t help, ask your provider about seeking additional care from a physiotherapist or podiatrist.

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2. Try a Paraffin Bath

Decreased joint stiffness and less pain will make all sorts of things easier and improve your overall quality of life, which is where a paraffin bath can come into play, says Jeskevicius.

These devices heat and hold paraffin, a type of wax used to make candles. To use it, you immerse your hand or foot in the unit so the warm wax completely covers it; after you take your hand or foot out, you can wrap it for a while in plastic wrap or a warm towel.

“Use it in the morning. That heat going through the joints of the hand can increase mobility and decrease pain,” says Jeskevicius, adding that the relief it brings can last a day or even longer.

3. Layer Up in Cold Weather

Falling temperatures can worsen pain in your hand joints and reduce mobility, says Jeskevicius. “It may seem like a small thing, but remembering to wear gloves can be very helpful. They can keep your hands warm and alleviate arthritic symptoms.”

Jane Sadowsky-Emmerth, RN, agrees. “Keeping joints warm in the cold weather can reduce pain and stiffness related to a psoriatic arthritis flare caused by the weather. Wear extra socks, sweaters, and scarves when going outside, and keep throws or blankets close by when watching TV or reading at home,” she shared on Tippi Psoriatic Arthritis.

4. Use Smart Technology

You can use technology to maintain independence when you’re experiencing a flare or want to conserve your energy for larger tasks. “Setting up a voice command on an iHome Voice Google Assistant or with Amazon’s Alexa can save you from doing a lot of nonmeaningful tasks,” says Jeskevicius.

Once it’s set up, you can use your voice to control your thermostat, turn lights on and off, and lock your doors when psoriatic arthritis symptoms make it too hard to complete these tasks without taxing your joints.

That said, “Whether or not smart technology can make life easier for you depends on your relationship with technology,” says Jeskevicius. If a person doesn’t know a lot about technology and isn’t interested in learning, it’s not a must, he says.

5. Take Rest Breaks

“No pain, no gain” is an expression that doesn’t and shouldn’t apply to people living with a chronic joint condition, says Jeskevicius. “People who have psoriatic arthritis who aren’t great at listening to their bodies can be at risk for overexerting themselves, which can lead to more inflammation and pain.”

Schedule time to take breaks as needed throughout your day. “Rather than abandoning something you enjoy, be flexible in how you approach it. Build in times for periods of rest, and pay attention to how your body is feeling,” advises Jeskevicius. If you allow yourself to take breaks, you’ll be more likely to be able to participate in activities you enjoy.

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6. Delegate Tasks

Even when you’re doing everything you can to avoid overtaxing your joints, sometimes your to-do list is just too long to keep up with. That’s when it’s time to ask for help from a family member or friend.

“If you’re starting to find a task or chore challenging because of your psoriatic arthritis symptoms, the first question to ask yourself before you delegate it should be, Is this task meaningful to me? Do I enjoy it?” says Jeskevicius.

Don’t delegate things you like doing, unless you feel like you don’t have any alternative, he says. “This is something you should discuss with your OT to see if there is a way that they can help you continue to do it with the right tools and strategies,” Jeskevicius says.

When you get to the point where you no longer feel comfortable or in control doing a task, that’s a different story, he adds. “The same goes if a task causes you pain or exposes you to further injury,” Jeskevicius says. “Those are things you should choose to delegate.”

Delegating less meaningful tasks allows you to save your energy for the things you enjoy doing. “For example, many people began using food and grocery delivery during the pandemic,” says Jeskevicius. “That could be something you choose to delegate if you don’t enjoy cooking or shopping.”

That’s another way an OT can help. “We take in information about your psoriatic arthritis symptoms, your lifestyle, and your values to help you continue to do the things you enjoy safely and with less pain,” he adds. “What works for one person might not work for another. That’s why meeting with an OT can be useful.”