Community Views: Water Exercise and Psoriatic Arthritis
Last updated: August 2021
It can feel like a catch-22: Exercise is said to help the pain of psoriatic arthritis (PsA), but too often the exercise itself is too painful to be helpful. For some in the PsA community, the solution is water.
When PsA pain meets water
The joint pain and stiffness of psoriatic arthritis can make exercise difficult, to say the least. But staying active can improve your range of motion and flexibility and protect your joints in the long term. Working out in the water can ease joint pain and stiffness and could be just what the doctor ordered.
To learn more about how this approach works for community members, we turned to followers of our Facebook page and asked: “Have you tried water exercise to relieve joint pain? What was your experience?” More than 100 community members shared their experiences. Here is what was said.
Exercising in water takes the weight off the joints, making exercise possible again. Moving the body helps keep joints limber, increases blood flow, and alleviates stiffness.
“I tread water in the sea approximately 3 times a week as it is a half-hour drive from me. The days I go, I feel mentally and physically relaxed during and after. If I have 48 hours between swims, I experience a flare-up that knocks me out for 6 hours.”
Exercising in water can be fast-acting pain relief. Several community members shared that when their PsA is too much, they head to a gym pool, community pool, state park lake, or the ocean. They find relief anywhere with water where they can swim laps, take a water aerobics class, or just walk in the pool. For some people, even just stretching in the water is enough to bring pain relief.
“I love the water. It got me back on my feet and helped with the pain.”
“Yes! I went on Saturday. I was in serious pain before I went into the water, but wow! The difference was unreal.”
“The weightlessness of being in the water allows movement without strain. I am always amazed at how effective it is. After the first week or 2, my mobility is virtually pain-free.”
“It relieved my pain when nothing else helped!”
Helps so long as I do not overdo it
Many community members emphasized that it is important to remember to take it easy in the water. Some mentioned that they know they overdid it if they have trouble getting out of the pool or if they feel pain as they walk away from the pool. If possible, start with a short amount of time in the water that seems easy, and build from there.
“It feels good when I am doing it, but I can really hurt afterward if I do not do baby steps.”
“It helps so long as you are careful. It is easy to overdo it. The exercise feels good, but it is very easy to hyperextend your elbows or cause stress to your other joints.”
“It made the pain worse if I was not careful to not overdo it.”
Aggravates other conditions
While the movement of exercising in water helps the majority of people who responded to the prompt, chlorine does not. A handful of people shared that the chlorine in swimming pools often makes conditions like psoriasis or asthma worse. Chlorine is difficult but not impossible to avoid. The solution may be seasonal, such as finding a lake or river to swim in, or making some calls to see if your community has a saltwater pool.
“I cannot go into swimming pools. It makes my psoriasis worse.”
“Warm water pool nearby felt amazing, but my asthma hates chlorine.”
If you’ve found that exercising on land is just too painful, you might find that psoriatic arthritis and water make a good team. So consider trading in your gym shoes for a swimsuit and trying water aerobics to help with the condition. Thank you to everyone who shared feedback and insights for this story. We are grateful to hear from so many people.
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