Phone. Wallet. Keys… what else?
When you’re taking on the world (or just catching up on your Netflix queue) and you have psoriatic arthritis, there are a few essentials you might want to have on you at all times.
From meds and methods to alleviate pain to helpful gadgets to prioritizing self-care, prepping ahead can help you tackle your to-do list even on bad days.
“There is a lot that people can do to supplement therapy,” says Dr. Ana-Maria Orbai, director of the Psoriatic Arthritis Program and assistant professor of medicine at John Hopkins.
Here are some of those essentials to keep on hand to relieve symptoms or simplify life with PsA.
While your doctor might prescribe medication for severe pain, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are most likely always going to be your BFFs, especially on high pain days.
Not only can they ease pain, but they also decrease inflammation, joint pain, and stiffness, making it easier for you to move. And the more you move, the better you will feel.
You’ll want to talk to your doctor about dosage — and keep a bottle of them in your bag if you’re leaving the house.
Never underestimate the power of a good ice pack on inflamed joints or a heat wrap on your lower back.
These might seem like low-tech pain relievers, but they can really work, especially after a long day.
Wrapping your hands is a skill worth learning. Sure, it might make you feel like a mummy, but it works. Promise.
If your fingers are swollen and painful, wrap them in a mesh bandage temporarily. Just make sure you don’t wrap them too tightly.
If you have psoriatic arthritis, you probably have foot pain.
Sometimes this pain will come from swelling in one or more of your toes (a condition known as dactylitis, which also goes by the unpleasant name “sausage toe.”)
The pain can also come from swelling in your ankles and heels. Or, it can be from inflammation where your tendons and ligaments connect to the bone (known as enthesitis).
You can also experience toenail pitting or nail separation.
That’s why it’s really important to take care of your feet. Wearing the wrong shoes can literally make your day hell.
Exercise also does you a lot of good when you have psoriatic arthritis, so finding shoes that allow you to be active without pain are essential.
If you love the shoes you have — or if a comfortable pair of shoes isn’t enough — consider getting a shoe orthotic.
If you have a lot of pain, a podiatrist can evaluate your feet and help you find an orthotic shoe insert for the best support. There are also options available online that could help.
Another way to motivate yourself to exercise more? Good workout clothes that help ease your pain.
Look for some workout tops and pants that gently compress your body and ease some of your swellings, especially around your joints. The effect might be subtle — but every little bit helps.
A lot of people with psoriatic arthritis also have psoriasis, which is why it’s important to take care of your skin.
“Moisturizing with really good moisturizers is important for the psoriatic skin because it tends to be dry,” says Orbai. “Ointments are good because they stick to the skin better than lighter creams.”
Real talk: You’re going to have good days and bad days (aka flare days) with psoriatic arthritis. Your symptoms might also change over time as the disease progresses.
“The same treatments don’t generally work forever,” explains Orbai. “So continuous management of psoriatic arthritis is generally required.”
However, she adds, “we’re not going to switch the treatment unless there’s really good evidence that it’s losing efficacy.”
You might find it helpful to keep a log of your symptoms. That way, you’ll notice trends or when things are getting worse so you can report it to your doctor.
Some days, even small tasks like turning on a light can be painful.
But if you have the right technology, you don’t have to turn on the light with your fingers.
With smart plugs, lightbulbs, thermostats, and voice-activated home assistants (such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home), you can control most technology in your home with your voice. And your swollen fingers can catch a break.
Backpacks, shoulder bags, and other heavy bags put pressure on your joints when you carry them. If you need to carry something heavy, consider using a rolling bag or fold-away cart.
Psoriatic arthritis is a chronic condition, and like most chronic conditions, it can begin to affect your mental health — especially if your symptoms get in the way of you doing the things you used to enjoy doing.
That’s why there’s no shame in talking to a therapist about how you’re feeling and coping on a day-to-day basis. There are also support groups, led by volunteers, where you can meet and talk to other people that know what you’re going through.
Self-care is mega important. Stress can worsen your symptoms and even trigger flare-ups. That’s why, even though it might seem indulgent at first, you’ll probably want to find a good massage therapist — then add their number to your phone.
Regular massages, especially from a massage therapist familiar with psoriatic arthritis, can help you relax, unwind, and ease some of your pain.
Yoga and relaxation or breathing exercises can help too if you’re not comfortable being touched or don’t have the budget for a massage.
Just remember: It’s OK to take time for self-care and relaxation.
1.5 million Americans live with psoriatic arthritis, a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease that affects joints, tendons, ligaments, and even the spine.
It can affect people of any age — though with most people, it strikes between the ages of 30 and 50.
There’s also no cure, which means you’ll likely have to manage — with the help of specialist doctors — symptoms for the rest of your life.
The good news is that your rheumatologist (and other specialists) will work with you to treat your symptoms. There are also ways to care for yourself and ease your pain and discomfort on a day-to-day basis.