Psoriatic arthritis is known to flare in the days leading up to your period.
In addition to traditional period or PMS pain, like cramping and aching, having your period with psoriatic arthritis can also bring on symptoms of flares such as swollen joints or worsening skin.
This can make your monthly cycle an extra challenging time. In fact, the National Psoriasis Foundation estimates that psoriasis has a greater impact on the quality of life of women and younger patients.
While your period can be a frustrating or painful occurrence, there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms. Many of them are similar to go-to methods for managing period or PMS pain.
Here’s what you need to know about the connection between periods and psoriatic arthritis, and how to cope with flares before your period.
While more research is needed to fully understand the connection between periods and psoriatic arthritis flares, fluctuating hormone levels may be the culprit.
In the days leading up to your period, estrogen and progesterone hormone levels drop, which can potentially cause increased pain, fatigue, and disease activity — aka worsening skin symptoms.
Then, after your period, estrogen levels rise through ovulation. During this time, women report that any inflammatory symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, like stiffness, actually improve several days to 2 weeks after their period.
Plus, in an older study of women with psoriasis, 55% reported fewer symptoms during their pregnancy. Estrogen and progesterone levels are higher during pregnancy, so this points to a possible influence of hormones on flares.
Low estrogen levels may also increase pain perception, potentially causing you to feel crummier and in more pain than you would during times of higher estrogen levels.
Plus, your skin tends to be more sensitive just before your period, which can lead to new or worsening psoriasis patches.
Some women with psoriatic arthritis experience increased inflammation in particular before their period. Luckily, inflammation can be managed.
Here are a few solutions to consider if your period is causing increased inflammation or new or worsening psoriatic arthritis flares.
Since stress is one of the main triggers for worsening psoriatic arthritis, getting some good old-fashioned R&R can go a long way in reducing inflammation.
The key is to listen to your body and be gentle with yourself. If you’re in pain or your joints feel swollen, take time to rest. Don’t force yourself to do physical activity if you don’t feel up for it. Consider working from home, if you can, and take your laptop to your couch.
Over-the-counter pain medication can be used to relieve increased psoriatic arthritis pain before your period.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be particularly helpful. You can purchase aspirin and ibuprofen at any drugstore.
NSAIDs can be used to control swelling, pain, and morning stiffness. They may also improve your range of motion in joints.
A combination of heat and cold can be extremely useful in managing psoriatic arthritis pain just before your period.
During a flare, experts recommend using heating pads or other sources of heat (like a hot bath) to combat stiffness in your joints.
Ice or cold, on the other hand, can be used to reduce swelling from psoriatic arthritis flares.
If you’re feeling up to it, gentle exercises or stretches may be helpful in reducing both pre-period pain and symptoms of psoriatic arthritis flares.
Experts recommend three easy stretches for psoriatic arthritis: finger extension or flexion, shoulder abduction, and knee extension. These can combat stiffness and improve mobility.
- Finger extension or flexion: Place a rubber band around your thumb and fingers with your hand slightly cupped and thumb and fingers spread apart. Then, relax the fingers back to their original position. Repeat 10 times per set with 2 sets per session.
- Shoulder abduction: Bring your arms straight out from your sides and raise them as high as possible (without causing pain, of course). Then, return your arms to your sides. Repeat 10 times per set with 2 sets per session.
- Knee extension: Place a resistance band looped around your ankle and under your other foot. Straighten your leg with the ankle loop, keeping your other leg bent to add more resistance. Then, return to the original position and switch the band so it is looped around the opposite ankle and foot. Repeat 10 times per set with 2 sets per session.
If none of these tips help with managing psoriatic arthritis flares before your period, you may want to talk with your doctor to determine a treatment plan that works for you.
After all, everybody is different, so what works for one person may not be right for you (and that’s totally OK). Your doctor can work with you to address your unique symptoms and concerns as to how your period or the days leading up affect your condition.
Psoriatic arthritis flares are common just before your period. But don’t let that discourage you.
Pain before your period can be managed with a few easy methods, and if those solutions don’t work, your doctor can work with you on a custom treatment plan.