You’ve probably heard of psoriasis, a skin condition that causes rashes with itchy, scaly patches most often on the knees, elbow, chest area, and scalp. Psoriasis, though treatable, is a long-term (or chronic) disease with no cure. If you have psoriasis, you know that it can be painful, interrupt your sleep, and make it difficult to focus during the cycles in which it flares up. There’s another unfortunate result that affects some people with psoriasis–psoriatic arthritis.
What Is Psoriatic Arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that often doesn’t surface until long after psoriasis has been diagnosed. However, there are times when the arthritis arrives before or at the same time the skin patches appear. Unfortunately, like psoriasis, there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis. The best options are treatments (like physical therapy) designed to control symptoms and prevent joint damage. Without treatment, the pain caused by psoriatic arthritis can be debilitating.
Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis
The most common signs and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis are joint pain, swelling, and stiffness affecting just about any part of your body–but most often in the feet, toes, fingers, and lower back. The pain can range from tolerable to quite severe and may surface on only one side of your body or both. According to the Cleveland Clinic, up to 30% of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, which occurs most commonly in adults between the ages of 35 and 55, though it can develop at any age.
Psoriatic Arthritis Triggers
It often seems as if there’s no real rhyme or reason as to what causes psoriatic arthritis flare-ups, so it’s a good idea to keep a journal of your outbreaks to determine what may have led to the flare-up. But it’s believed by many doctors that these are the primary causes of PA flare-ups:
- Skin trauma or injury, such as cuts, bruises, bumps, scratches, scrapes, or infections
- Dry skin
- Certain medications such as anti-malarial drugs, beta-blockers that treat high blood pressure and some heart conditions, and lithium. These medications can get in the way of your body’s autoimmune response and cause a flare-up.
- Excess weight
- Common infections including thrush, strep throat, and upper respiratory infections
Treating Psoriatic Arthritis with Physical Therapy
There are a variety of treatment methods available for psoriatic arthritis, including immunosuppressant drugs that help calm your overactive immune system, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARD), steroid injections, and even joint replacement surgery. But physical therapy has proven to be quite an effective treatment for this condition as well.
As always, the aim of PT is to reduce pain, improve and restore mobility, enable you to take on everyday tasks and activities, and prevent disability. For psoriatic arthritis, a physical therapist here at Physical Therapy NOW in Irving will work together with you to create a personalized treatment plan that would likely include stretching, strengthening, and aerobic exercises. This treatment, along with heat and ice therapies to soothe joint pain and stiffness, can help you get back to your day-to-day life with as little pain as possible. Exercises such as swimming, walking, and yoga are also low-impact yet effective forms of activity.
Additionally, the use of assistive devices such as braces, crutches, walkers, splints, and others can help during your flare-ups; we can show you how to use these on your own. Other lifestyle changes can help you avoid and alleviate psoriatic arthritis pain, including using devices instead of your hands to perform everyday tasks–for example, using an electric can opener instead of a manual one.
If you’re ready to ease your psoriatic arthritis pain and get back to a comfortable way of life, call Physical Therapy NOW at (214) 225-0291 today to make your initial appointment at our convenient Irving location.