Are Physical Therapy and Exercise Important for PsA?

Physical therapy and exercise are critical components of a treatment plan for psoriatic arthritis as physical activity helps maintain joint movement. Psoriatic arthritis inflames the joints, causing pain and stiffness, and the disease can progress such to damage the joints and limit range of motion. Regular exercise is key to improving overall health and keeping the joints flexible. Physical or occupational therapy can be helpful, providing specific exercises and techniques that promote the ability to move, return function, and prevent disability.1

Regular exercise

Exercise is important to overall health, and it is critical for maintaining the function and use of joints in psoriatic arthritis. Low-impact exercise has been shown to reduce pain and improve well-being in people with psoriatic arthritis. Physical activity can also help maintain strength in muscles, making daily tasks easier.2,3

To avoid and prevent the stiffness that psoriatic arthritis causes, people with psoriatic arthritis might consider getting daily physical activity, moving their joints through as great a range of motion as possible. There are several different kinds of exercise that can be helpful:4

  • StretchingStretching is important for muscle flexibility and maintaining or improving the range of motion in joints. Yoga and Tai Chi are two forms of exercise that incorporate stretching, although simple stretches can also be included throughout the day.
  • Strengthening – Strength training makes joints more stable, and weight bearing exercises increase bone density and prevent osteoporosis. Strength training can be done using dumbbells, resistance bands, or through exercises such as Pilates.
  • Aerobic – Aerobic exercise increases physical endurance and provides cardiovascular benefits. Aerobic exercise has shown to improve mood, provide more energy, increase stamina, and decrease inflammation. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, swimming, and cycling.4

Psoriatic arthritis symptoms can flare and remit. Even on days when the pain and swelling is worsened, people living with psoriatic arthritis should move and stretch as much as they can every day to lessen stiffening and maintain flexibility.4

Physical therapy for psoriatic arthritis

People with psoriatic arthritis are often referred to physical or occupational therapists to help maintain joint function.5 Physical therapists are licensed health care professionals who help individuals living with psoriatic arthritis reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. They help individuals prevent injury or manage their condition using treatment techniques that promote the ability to move, return function, and prevent disability.6

A physical therapy program for psoriatic arthritis is individually tailored to the person’s needs and symptoms. The components of a physical therapy program can include:

  • Exercises and periods of resting the affected joints
  • Heat/Cold treatments
  • Orthotics
  • Assistive devices to help with daily activities
  • Patient education on energy conservation techniques and joint protection
  • Possible vocational readjustments5

Occupational therapy for psoriatic arthritis

Occupational therapists are also utilized in the treatment of psoriatic arthritis. Occupational therapists are licensed health professionals that work with people who need specialized assistance due to physical, developmental, social, or emotional problems. Occupational therapists often work with people with psoriatic arthritis and other illnesses or disabilities to help them do everyday tasks that are important to them, such as eating, dressing, and work activities. They may suggest changes to the environment, the task, or the person’s skills needed for the task.7

Written by: Emily Downward | Last reviewed: October 2016.
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