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How to stay active while protecting your joints

Which exercises are okay for those with psoriatic arthritis?

Exercise is one of the best ways to improve joint performance and relieve symptoms of psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Potential benefits include increased flexibility and stronger muscles that better support joints, which can mean less pain and more function, says physical therapist Brian Blevins, DPT, of Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Portland, Oregon.

“Being active also improves balance and heart health; it lowers blood pressure and blood sugar levels, reduces weight and, therefore, pressure on joints. It improves bone and joint health, and it makes it easier to sleep,” says Blevins. Here, he answers questions about staying safe while reaping the benefits of physical activity.

Q: It’s been a while since I’ve exercised. How do I get started?

A: Build up slowly! If you start too fast, you’ll end up sore and could potentially overstress joints. So, start slow and work up, even if it that means beginning with as little as five to 10 minutes of activity each day a few days a week. Then gradually increase activity to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise three to five days a week. Be sure to check with a health care provider – your primary care doctor is ideal – before initiating any new exercise program.

Q: What fitness goals should I focus on?

A: Improving range of motion – how far you can move joints in one direction without pain – and building strength are important for people with PsA. Range-of-motion exercises help maintain and improve joint mobility. These exercises include stretching and specific movements, which a physical therapist can teach, that target your individual joint issues. Resistance exercises with light weights strengthen muscles so they can better support and stabilize the joints they surround.

Q: How can a physical therapist help me be more active?

A: Physical therapists can work with you on general aerobic conditioning, create an individualized exercise program tailored to your joint issues, demonstrate proper positioning of joints and discuss coping strategies. For example, we can make suggestions for workplace accommodations and the use of devices such as braces, which may make exercise easier and safer. We can also do interventions that aren’t exercise-based to help you when you’re having a flare, such as manual therapy, which refers to hands-on techniques to manipulate and mobilize soft tissues and joints that reduce pain and increase range of motion.

Read on: How to stay active while protecting your joints

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