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Why Physical Therapy and Exercise Are Important for Psoriatic Arthritis

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: February 2024 | Last updated: February 2024

Physical therapy and exercise are important parts of a treatment plan for psoriatic arthritis (PsA). PsA inflames the joints, which causes pain and stiffness. As the disease progresses, it can cause damage to the joints and limit your range of movement. Physical activity can help relieve pain and maintain joint movement.1

Physical and occupational therapy can be helpful treatment tools. Physical and occupational therapists can give you exercises and ways to:1,2

  • Improve movement
  • Return function to joints
  • Prevent disability

Exercise for psoriatic arthritis

Regular exercise is key to overall health. And it is vital for keeping the joints flexible. To treat and prevent stiff joints, consider doing daily physical activity. Try moving your joints through as large a range of motion as possible.1,2

Physical activity can help maintain muscle strength, making daily tasks easier. Low-impact exercise has been shown to reduce pain and improve well-being in people with PsA.1,2

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Aerobic exercise, too, has many benefits. It can:1,2

  • Increase physical endurance and stamina
  • Keep your heart healthy
  • Improve mood
  • Give you more energy
  • Decrease inflammation

Being overweight or obese can make joint pain worse. Regular exercise and reducing your calorie intake can help with weight loss.3

PsA symptoms can come and go. Even on days when pain and swelling is at its worst, move and stretch as much as you can. It will lessen the stiffness and help you maintain flexibility.1,2,4

Here are a few exercises that may be good for people with PsA.


This is one of the easiest, safest forms of exercise, by far. Walking raises the heart rate and keeps joints mobile. It can be a great weight loss tool. All you need is a comfortable pair of walking shoes.1,2


Stretching is important for muscle flexibility and maintaining or improving the range of motion in joints. Yoga and tai chi are 2 forms of exercise that include stretching. However, you can also do simple stretches throughout the day.1,2

Strength training

Strength training makes joints more stable. Weight-bearing exercises increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis. Strength training can be done using dumbbells or resistance bands, or through exercises like Pilates.2


Swimming is an amazing low-impact form of exercise. Water makes you feel weightless, so it is easy on the joints. Swimming is a great option for people with joint pain.2

Physical therapy for psoriatic arthritis

People with PsA are often referred to physical therapists to help with joint function. Physical therapists are licensed experts who help you manage your condition. They teach you methods and tools that:5

  • Reduce pain
  • Improve or restore mobility
  • Return function to joints
  • Prevent injury and disability

A physical therapy program is tailored to your unique needs and symptoms. Such a program may include:5

  • Exercises and periods of resting the affected joints
  • Heat/cold treatments
  • Orthotics
  • Assistive devices to help with daily activities
  • Tips for ways to conserve energy and protect joints
  • Possible vocational readjustments

Occupational therapy for psoriatic arthritis

Occupational therapy is often part of a PsA treatment plan as well. Occupational therapists are licensed experts who work with people who need special help due to physical, developmental, social, or emotional problems.5,6

Occupational therapists help people with PsA do everyday tasks that are important to them. These may include:5,6

  • Eating
  • Bathing and dressing
  • House chores
  • Work tasks
  • Driving

Therapists may suggest changes to your environment or the tasks you are doing. They can help you improve skills that are needed for your daily tasks.6

Start slow and tell your doctor about your exercise plans

If you want to start exercising, start slow. Daily walks are a great place to begin. And tell your doctor about any new exercise plan or regimen you want to start. They can advise you on which exercise might work best for you. They may be able to recommend exercise classes or programs in your area.1

Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.