Physical Therapy for Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory form of arthritis that causes the body’s immune system to attack its joints. Affecting up to one-third of the people who have psoriasis (an autoimmune skin condition), this condition can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling to develop in multiple body regions at the same time.

In many cases, physical therapy (PT) can be a valuable treatment for people with this disease. This article will describe typical therapy treatments for psoriatic arthritis and will discuss their potential benefits.

Person with psoriatic arthritis does exercises with physical therapist

SDI Productions / Getty Images

Physical Therapy Benefits

Physical therapy treatments can offer several significant benefits to people whose psoriatic arthritis symptoms are not adequately addressed by medication alone. Depending on the type of rehab you receive, the potential advantages can include:

  • Decreased PsA disease activity
  • Reduced stiffness in aggravated joints
  • Lower pain levels
  • Enhanced daily function and quality of life
  • Improved energy and sleep quality

PT usually is used in addition to medications for psoriatic arthritis. A healthcare provider can help guide you toward the treatment options that
are appropriate for your specific situation.

Risks of Physical Therapy

Physical therapy generally is an effective and safe treatment option, and your sessions should not cause additional pain. Rehab techniques that increase your soreness can aggravate your psoriatic arthritis and worsen your swelling, inflammation, and pain levels.

What to Expect

The specifics of your physical therapy session are unique to your individual needs and functional limitations. Many rehab sessions incorporate the following treatment techniques:

  • Stretching to improve joint range of motion and reduce stiffness
  • Strengthening to help support and stabilize aggravated joints
  • Aerobic exercise to increase your overall endurance and enhance your cardiovascular health
  • Modalities, including cryotherapy (cold therapy), electrical stimulation, or paraffin baths, to improve pain and reduce swelling
  • Splinting and custom-fit orthotics to reduce joint deformity

Therapy sessions typically last between 30 and 60 minutes. Their frequency and overall duration vary depending on the specifics of your condition. Following an evaluation, your physical therapist should be able to outline the proposed treatments and the time frame associated with them.

Physical Therapy Costs

The overall cost of physical therapy varies widely depending on the treatment location and your insurance coverage. In general, the out-of-pocket cost for a therapy session averages between $75 and $350.

This cost may be significantly lower, however, if you attend rehab at a location that is authorized by your insurance. It is also important to factor in your yearly deductible and any therapy co-payments charged.

In the case of Medicare, 80% of your therapy charges are typically covered, and the remaining 20% is your responsibility. In many instances, the 20% is covered by secondary insurance, if you have it.

If you have questions about how much PT will cost, contact your insurance carrier to get an estimate before you are treated. In addition, be aware that some therapy locations offer a discount for prepayment or lower rates based on your income. 

Who Should Consider Physical Therapy for Psoriatic Arthritis?

Most people with psoriatic arthritis can benefit from treatment with physical therapy. This is especially true if your current medication regimen is inadequately controlling your arthritis symptoms. 

In addition, people with PsA who are experiencing joint pain, swelling, stiffness, or reduced overall function should speak to their healthcare provider about PT. It can be successfully used to address these issues.

Finally, getting more active in therapy can help combat some of the potential comorbidities (co-occurring conditions) that often appear alongside this disease. These include obesity, high blood pressure (hypertension), and poor cholesterol levels. This fact makes PT appealing to a wide array of individuals with this form of arthritis.

Who Should Avoid Physical Therapy

Most people with psoriatic arthritis are good candidates for PT, but individuals with recurrent angina (chest pain), dizziness or light-headedness, severe pain, or uncontrolled shortness of breath should speak to their healthcare provider before starting therapy.  

Other Treatment Options

While physical therapy can be a useful additional (adjunct) treatment for addressing psoriatic arthritis, the disease is primarily treated with medication. Several different classes of medicine may be used.

Over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and naproxen, are frequently prescribed to help reduce the inflammation that is present in your joints. The inflammation may also need to be addressed using more potent corticosteroids, which can be given orally or via an injection into the joint.

Finally, disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) are powerful medications sometimes needed to reduce PsA disease activity and alleviate any inflammation that is present. This class of drug, which includes medications like biologics and methotrexate, may be taken orally, injected, or received via an infusion.


Physical therapy is often a useful supplemental treatment for psoriatic arthritis. It has been shown to help reduce the pain, stiffness, swelling, and disability caused by this disease. Typical PT treatments include stretching, strengthening, aerobic exercise, and potentially the use of pain-relieving modalities.

Therapy may be somewhat costly, but it is often partially covered by insurance.

A Word From Verywell

Psoriatic arthritis can be a stubborn disease whose symptoms ebb and flow without warning. If you are dealing with the pain, stiffness, and inflammation associated with this condition, physical therapy may hold some promise. 

While not meant to replace traditional treatment with medication, PT can help restore some of your independence and reduce your suffering. Be sure to speak to your rheumatologist or healthcare provider about whether physical therapy is appropriate for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is physical therapy helpful for psoriatic arthritis?

    Physical therapy can help reduce the pain, stiffness, and disability associated with psoriatic arthritis. It can also alleviate some of the swelling that occurs during a flare-up of the disease. On top of this, the physical activity that you perform in PT can improve your sleep quality and enhance your overall energy levels.

  • Does insurance cover physical therapy for psoriatic arthritis?

    Most insurances cover a portion of the cost of physical therapy for psoriatic arthritis. The specific details, including your co-pay and deductible, vary from plan to plan, however. 
    Many PT locations also offer a reduced out-of-pocket plan for individuals who do not have insurance coverage.

  • Are medications needed for psoriatic arthritis?

    Pharmacological treatment is one of the primary methods of addressing psoriatic arthritis. This typically includes NSAIDs, corticosteroids, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. These medications help reduce inflammation in the body and decrease PsA disease activity.

3 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.
  1. Arthritis Foundation. Psoriatic arthritis.

  2. Perrotta FM, Scriffignano S, Benfaremo D, et al. New insights in physical therapy and rehabilitation in psoriatic arthritis: a review. Rheumatol Ther. 2021;8(2):639-649. doi:10.1007/s40744-021-00298-9

  3. Ortho Bethesda. How much does physical therapy cost?

By Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS
Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS, is a board-certified orthopedic specialist who has practiced as a physical therapist for more than a decade.