Psoriasis: More Than Just a Rash
Psoriatic Arthritis: 9 Ways to Make Everyday Activities Easier on Your Joints
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When you have psoriatic arthritis, joint inflammation — which can affect a few or many of your joints according to the Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis Alliance (PAPAA) — can make simple tasks like getting out of bed or sitting at your computer painful.
If you want to be able to perform everyday activities without pain and discomfort, keep two things in mind, says Monica Bozeman McClain, OTR, an occupational therapist at Methodist Dallas Medical Center in Texas. One is energy conservation; the other is joint protection.
“Those two things are the basis for everything you can do to make managing psoriatic arthritis easier,” she adds. Also, McClain continues, being kind to your joints can help prevent further damage.
Adaptations for Psoriatic Arthritis
Follow these tips for performing daily tasks to help prevent additional damage to your joints:
Get out of bed slowly.“Don’t sit up quickly,” McClain says. “Slowly roll to one side and push yourself up and get your bearings.” If you take it nice and easy, you’ll work out the cricks and be able to move better once you’re upright. Stretching before you get up can also help, she adds. Many people with psoriatic arthritis find that their joints are stiffer after resting, according to the PAPAA.
Get a fatter toothbrush.Psoriatic arthritis often involves inflammation in the joints of the fingers, which can make gripping difficult. A thinner toothbrush can be harder to hold, McClain says. An electric toothbrush may be a good option — it’s not only likely to be fatter but also easier to hold, “and it does the work for you,” which helps conserve energy, she adds.
Install single-lever faucets.Faucets that mix hot and cold water in a single lever are easier to turn off and on when the joints in your hands are inflamed. Another tip to make your bathroom more psoriatic arthritis-friendly: Installing grab bars over the toilet and in the bath or shower can make it easier for you to get up and down and in and out, McClain says, helping to lower your risk for falling and getting injured.
Use a headset for phone calls.Or, if privacy isn’t an issue, a speaker phone works, too, says Holly Cohen, OTR/L, ATP, SCEM, program manager of the Assistive Technology Service at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City. Squeezing the phone between your ear and your shoulder stresses your neck joints, Cohen explains. That can be a concern for people with psoriatic arthritis, who often have neck pain, according to the PAPAA.
Carry packages close to your body.People with psoriatic arthritis often have back stiffness or pain, too. When carrying packages, take the load off your back by holding them close to your body. Slide your packages rather than lift them, the Arthritis Foundation suggests. You always want to use your larger, stronger joints and muscles when you can, McClain explains. This means spreading the load over a larger surface. Don’t hold plastic grocery bag handles with your fingers. Use the palms of your hands and, if possible, carry with your arms. Strap your purse diagonally across your body to distribute its weight more evenly or use a lightweight backpack, Cohen advises.
Sit properly at your computer.To keep from stressing your back when you’re at your computer, distribute your weight evenly on both hips and make sure your head and neck are straight, not at an angle up or down. Keep your feet on the floor and your knees at 90-degree angles. Rest your elbows on arm rests.
Use adaptive devices in the car.If you’re having a hard time turning the wheel or using the pedal, get evaluated by a driving rehab specialist, Cohen recommends. There are lots of adaptive devices that can help you sit, steer, and brake more comfortably. But if you buy them off the shelf or online, they may not be right for you, she says, and “that’s why I believe it’s important to be evaluated by someone who is versed in this and who can help you determine what will work best for you.” When driving, take breaks to release stress on your joints, advises the University of California Riverside’s Environmental Health & Safety program. Keep your hands positioned on the wheel at 10 and 2, McClain says, because “symmetry is important.”
Get a grip.“My favorite device for opening bottles and jars is the rubber jar pads they sell at the dollar store,” McClain says. They make popping off lids so much easier. An automatic opener is a good option, too. Open packages with scissors rather than tearing them with your fingers, she suggests. You can buy scissors that are ideal for people with arthritis or limited hand strength.
Keep often-used items close.If you use something daily, keep it within easy reach. Store cosmetics in the bathroom and spices in the kitchen according to how often you use them. The less reaching you have to do, the less strain you will put on your joints, McClain says.
It’s important that you be kind to your joints when you have psoriatic arthritis. But if the pain is unbearable or worsens, talk to your healthcare team about what you can do to better manage it.
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