Medical treatment for your psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is essential for managing symptoms and protecting your joints. But alongside therapies and regular checkups, there are daily practices you can also adopt to promote joint health and keep flare-ups at bay.
Move your body. Exercise helps keep your joints loose and limber. Movement can also ease inflammation and pain. With a regular workout, you’ll make your muscles stronger and your joints more stable, and you can also ease stiffness.
“Strength training and low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and cycling may be great places to start, especially since they are easier on the joints,” says Rebecca Haberman, MD, a rheumatologist at NYU Langone Health.
If physical activity hasn’t been a staple in your life, talk to your doctor or a physical therapist before you begin. They can help suggest workouts that work best for your schedule and abilities.
Eat well. While there’s no magic cure-all diet for PsA, a heart-healthy diet is your best bet for overall wellness and long-term health, too.
“We know that patients with psoriatic arthritis are at about three times higher risk for heart disease, stroke, or any kind of cardiovascular event,” says Nilanjana Bose, MD, a rheumatologist at Memorial Hermann Rheumatology Center of Houston.
You also have a higher chance of getting type 2 diabetes than people without PsA.
A general guideline for filling your plate: Go for fish and other lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains. Scale back on carbs, sugar, and red meat. And drink plenty of water throughout the day.
Though there’s no hard evidence that drinking alcohol will make your PsA worse, it’s a good idea to use caution — for your health and to be sure your treatments can work correctly.
“Some medications that we use to treat psoriatic arthritis, like methotrexate, don’t mix well with alcohol,” Haberman says. “Be sure to ask your doctor if alcohol is safe for you to drink.”
Follow your treatment plan. Your PsA treatments work directly on easing your symptoms and protecting your joints. They’re the most effective way to lower inflammation in your body and prevent damage. Be sure you take your doctor’s instructions to heart and stick with the program.
“Most medications for psoriatic arthritis are chronic medications — meaning they need to be taken long-term to be effective,” Haberman says. “So when you’re feeling better, you don’t want to stop your medications, or you may flare back up.”
Keep up regular visits with your doctor, especially if you are flaring or continue to be in pain. “It may not always be possible, but our goal is for you to live your life exactly the way you want to, without even thinking about your disease,” says Haberman.
Pay attention to stress levels. When you feel stressed, your body releases chemicals that make muscles tense and make inflammation worse. That can cause damage and pain in joints.
“Stress and psoriatic arthritis often create a vicious circle,” Haberman says. “Stress can exacerbate joint pain — even trigger a flare — which then causes more stress, and so on.”
The key, she says, is to break the cycle in multiple ways — through both medication and stress relief. There’s no one way to manage stress, so find what works best for you.
“Try deep breathing meditation or mind-body relaxation applications,” Bose says. “And most importantly, carve out time to do things you like that make you happy.”
Care for your mental health. Make your mental well-being a priority. This might mean simply learning more about your condition so you feel better-prepared to deal with it.
“I always tell my patients to read up on their disease and all the medicines they are taking so we can have informed conversations and talk about anything they don’t understand,” Bose says.
Reach out to others with PsA through online or in-person support groups. Talking to others who understand what it’s like to deal with your condition can help you feel less alone. And if you find yourself struggling emotionally, seek help.
“It’s important to remember that rates of depression and anxiety are high in people with psoriatic arthritis,” Haberman says. “So if you need to, consult a mental health professional.”