Understanding and Managing Psoriatic Arthritis Pain

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Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an autoimmune form of arthritis that causes joint inflammation and occurs alongside psoriasis in some people. PsA causes stiff, painful joints with redness, heat, and swelling in the surrounding tissues.

The symptoms of PsA, including pain, can be managed. People with PsA can work with their healthcare team to find a treatment plan specific to their needs, including medications and lifestyle treatment.

How to Manage Psoriatic Arthritis Pain

Verywell / Julie Bang

Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment

Early diagnosis can help you make a treatment plan with your doctor to slow or stop the progression of PsA. Depending on the severity of symptoms and preferences, your doctor may start with over-the-counter (OTC) treatments.

They may also recommend prescription medications, lifestyle changes, and other therapies to relieve symptoms and help you live a happy and productive life.

Psoriatic Arthritis Doctor Discussion Guide

Doctor Discussion Guide Old Man

Lifestyle Treatment Options

People with PsA may have trouble completing certain daily activities due to the symptoms. Lifestyle changes may be able to help, including:

  • Not smoking: Research has shown that smoking can increase disease severity and disease development of PsA. Smoking has been linked to poor treatment adherence and lower response to treatment as well.
  • Wearing a brace: PsA can cause pain and swelling, and a brace can help support and take the pressure off of the affected joints.
  • Performing light-moderate exercise: Light-moderate exercise isn’t as hard on the body, but is still effective for keeping joints healthy, avoiding weight gain and adding strain to your joints, and building supportive muscles that can help with mobility.
  • Using a hot or cold compress: Hot or cold compresses can help promote blood circulation, which reduces joint stiffness, muscle spasms, and swelling.
  • Managing stress: PsA can be hard to live with, and stress can trigger and worsen flare-ups. Keeping your stress levels under control can help prevent them.
  • Resting: Never underestimate the benefit of rest, especially if you’re a very active person. Taking time to rest helps your body recharge and reduce the strain put on the affected joints.

Medications

Medications are used to reduce PsA symptoms and slow disease progression. There are both OTC and prescription medication options for treating PsA.

OTC medications used to treat PsA include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin. These can help relieve pain and inflammation in your joints.

Prescription medications, including corticosteroids (by mouth or injected) and disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), may be prescribed. DMARDs include the traditional approach of methotrexate and biologics.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine

In addition to medications and lifestyle changes, there are also natural treatment options for PsA, including:

  • Acupuncture: A 2020 study found acupuncture to be a suitable treatment option for people with PsA.
  • Ta chi: Ta chi can help with stress and pain relief through calm, slow movements.
  • Cannabis: In preliminary research, cannabis has been shown to be a great option for pain and other symptoms. Another study showed positive results of cannabis on chronic pain.
  • Essential oils: Essential oils are derived from plants and bottled into small doses for a variety of uses. When it comes to treating psoriatic arthritis, research is limited, but essential oils may offer pain or swelling relief. Those used most in treating pain, swelling, and other symptoms of PsA include lavender, eucalyptus, and turmeric.

Prevention

Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease that flares from time to time (when symptoms become more severe). It’s not exactly clear what causes PsA, and sometimes its onset is not preventable. However, early diagnosis and an open mind to treatment options can help prevent flare-ups and slow disease development.

Certain triggers can spark flare-ups, so identifying and avoiding them can help prevent symptoms from worsening. Common triggers include stress, exposure to cigarette smoke, infections, weather changes, medications, and excessive alcohol consumption.

Coping

Coping with PsA includes creating a treatment plan you’re confident in, having an open dialogue with healthcare professionals, and seeking support from others.

Social

In addition to a strong support system, there are support groups for people living with chronic pain and PsA in particular. The Arthritis Foundation website offers resources on how to find a local support group for PsA.

If you are a loved one of someone with PsA, know that small gestures matter and can make a huge difference in the management of the disease and mood of the person with PsA. These might include offering a massage, listening to their concerns, and helping out with daily activities.

Practical

By applying topical pain medication or taking OTC or prescription medications correctly, symptoms may improve. When undertaking a demanding or physical task or planning to sit or stand for long periods of time, planning ahead or finding a place to step away for a break may help.

Ask for help from a trusted loved one. Keeping a journal of symptoms, medications, and flares is also a great way to help your healthcare team monitor your condition and make adjustments to your treatment plan accordingly.

Summary

Psoriatic arthritis causes inflammation and pain in the joints. Seeking treatment from a healthcare professional is the best way to alleviate your symptoms and slow or stop disease progression. PsA is usually treated with lifestyle changes, OTC medications, and prescription medications. With the proper treatment, many people with PsA can continue with their daily activities. Seeking support from others is also an important part of managing the disease.

A Word From Verywell

Managing PsA is possible with a combination of medical and lifestyle interventions. Staying ahead of flare-ups means avoiding triggers and making changes to existing lifestyle and workplace conditions. You can also seek symptom relief through OTC and prescription medications. The sooner the condition is treated, the better your outcome will be.

Frequently Asked Questions

What helps with psoriatic arthritis?

PsA can be treated with lifestyle changes to reduce strain on your joints, OTC medications to control pain and inflammation, and prescription medications to slow disease progression. Discuss all treatment options with your healthcare provider to determine the best plan for you.

How effective is the treatment for psoriatic arthritis?

Depending on when the disease was diagnosed, severity of your condition, and the treatments chosen, management of PsA is possible. Many people can continue living independently with proper treatment.

Can you work with psoriatic arthritis pain?

Each person’s experience with psoriatic arthritis is different. If pain is interfering with work, you should discuss it with a healthcare professional. Workplace accommodations, including schedule and workstation changes, can be sought. People with PsA should avoid demanding physical occupations or daily requirements.

How bad can psoriatic pain get?

For some, pain can be quite severe, interfering with daily activities. However, this can be managed with OTC medications or injections of pain medications. Other times, especially when caught early, treatment can be very effective for minimizing pain.

What triggers psoriatic pain?

Many things can trigger a flare-up and increased pain. Making healthy changes to your lifestyle and avoiding overwhelming physical activity is a major part of avoiding psoriatic arthritis pain. Smoking and stress are common triggers and should be avoided or managed as much as possible.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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