When is Rest the Best?
For individuals with psoratic arthritis (PsA), time and time again advice often centers around getting adequate exercise to relieve symptoms. While exercise can provide many benefits, such as improving mood, decreasing stress, reducing joint pain, and strengthening the muscles around joints to improve function, there are times when rest may be best. Some sources recommend switching up exercise routines when you are in pain. This can include changing your daily routine of walking after dinner for 30 minutes, to going to your local swimming pool for a quick dip to avoid putting strain on a sore ankle. Tips like these can be great for helping you maintain and ever-important exercise plan, but when is the appropriate time to just rest?
In our “Psoriatic Arthritis In America” study, respondents reported mainly having a moderate level of pain, and although things like heat, exercise, or cold helped symptoms, nothing seemed to help more than rest and sleep. While the overall answer to how to handle symptoms may be to “just keep moving,” there are exceptions.
When pain changes
It may be time to stop and rest when pain changes from typical joint swelling or stiffness to acute pain. This can be a sign of improper exercising or too strenuous of an activity. Communicating with your doctor, physical therapist, or physiologist can be crucial to making a plan that is feasible for you so you can avoid over-exertion. While there may be days where an exceptionally painful joint can be avoided in favor of other exercises, only you know your body and what it needs. If the pain can be avoided, then exercise may be able to continue. But if the pain is too discomforting, and is not just related to PsA, then maybe it is time to take a rest.
During a flare-up
Only you know your body, and know when a flare-up is coming, or is currently hitting. Seeking medical attention and the right medications, steroid injections, or relief techniques can be crucial to preventing permanent joint damage. This is the time for rest and focusing on getting better, and reducing pain and inflammation. Severe fatigue can hit with a flare-up, and sometimes, the best medicine for this unfortunate side-effect can simply be extra rest. While this may not be the perfect fix for everyone, practicing healthy sleep habits in general can help across the board. Getting to be early, and getting restful sleep can help prevent future flare-ups and reduce pain.
Stress can be a contributor to a flare-up, which is why foregoing exercise for the day in favor of quiet meditation or relaxation techniques may be a powerful medicine. Changing your plans for the day and just having mind-quieting time to relieve tensions can help more than forcing your body to be active. Additionally, your doctor can sometimes prescribe or recommend assistive devices like splints, or orthotic shoes to give individual joints the rest and de-stressing they need, so you can keep going.
Ultimately, only you know your body and what it needs. While it is crucial to keep moving and exercising to improve daily symptoms, rest can be even more powerful in times of flare-ups or injury. Let us know how you know when it’s time to rest versus pushing through and staying active, or any tips you have for either situation!