Patient Blogs | Psoriatic Arthritis
How a Mix of Complementary and Physical Therapies Helped My Psoriatic Arthritis
photo of wrist brace

When I was first diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, I figured I would have to start taking medication. This was just before you started seeing medication commercials for PsA at every break, so I wasn’t sure what to expect in the way of meds. I went on my medication and eventually, everything worked out the way the doctor hoped it would, so awesome.

However, sometimes medication just isn’t enough. Sometimes we have to do other things to supplement the treatment. These complementaryRemove Anchor treatments may be doctor dictated or things we’ve heard about from others or see online and want to try. I have some at the end that are in a different category. You’ll see what I mean when we get there. Please, whatever you choose to do, discuss your plans with your doctor. Now, join me on the therapy journey.

Doctor’s Orders

The first category is doctor dictated. The first one is something I have discussed previously, which is phototherapy for my psoriasis symptoms. This was done at my dermatologist’s office, and it’s different than just going to the tanning bed. The UV waves in phototherapy are different than tanning bed UV waves, so don’t think they are the same.

My next option was physical therapy. My rheumatologist sent me to therapy when I had a lot of pain and swelling in the joints of my hand. They worked with me on taping and stretches in my hand. They said if those therapies didn’t work, they would look into a custom-made splint, but it didn’t come to that.

A few other things that my rheumatologist has suggested include certain stretches. He has printed out stretches to help out with my shoulder, with my knees, with my hips. It’s always good to keep moving and stretching. An easy at-home therapy he gave me, starting from when I first began going to him, is paraffin wax. You may have seen it at spas or manicure places. It involves using a small vessel to heat up the wax. First, you dip your hands (or even your feet) into the wax. Then you put the plastic gloves on your wax-dipped hands to trap the heat in. My rheumatologist was also helpful in giving me options when I was having issues with gripping pens. In case you couldn’t tell, my hands are one of my worst places.

Find What Works for You

Speaking of hands, now I’m going to move on to non-medical things I’ve tried. Before I was diagnosed, soaking in the tub was one of the things that gave me relief, and it’s still a good go-to for me. The relaxation and the heat have always been very soothing for me. Unfortunately, when I traveled for work, not all of the hotels had tubs. After sitting on an airplane for a couple of hours, a tub soak would have been nice. But I guess Mick Jagger was right: You can’t always get what you want.

I also used braces and gloves. For the most part, I had been able to get by without those. However, I remember several years ago I was driving to the beach and the pain in my wrist and hand was too much to bear. I stopped at a pharmacy and bought a brace to be able to complete my drive. I’m not going to lie: It did bum me out. My medication had been able to keep things in check well enough, but when I had to consciously stop to get a brace, it was a bit sobering.

I have now come to appreciate the use of compression gloves in my daily work life as well. My job involves a lot of typing, and when my hands hurt, it makes my job a little more difficult. I also found them at the pharmacy, and they are actually helpful. The toughest part was finding the right fit. But once I did, they have provided relief.

I also reached out to two dear friends of mine, who also happen to have arthritis. (Shout out to Kristine and to Shelley.) I asked them about some of the things they tried. They both have tried dietary changes, which didn’t really work. Shelley said she’s constantly making dietary changes but still hasn’t found the answers for her body. Kristine also tried eliminating several things, which also didn’t help permanently. But neither is giving up trying to find the right balance. Both have previously done food journals as well. The things that worked best for Shelley are her heating pad, lifting light weights, stretching exercises, and walking a lot each day. Kristine does acupuncture and massage when she can fit them in. She’s even tried a shot of dark cherry juice, among other things. Kristine said she tried a lot of things she knew deep down weren’t going to work, but sometimes, it just helped to try, to feel like she was doing something or anything.

To me, though, the best thing I can do for myself is self-care. I will go over this more in a later blog, but taking care of yourself physically and emotionally is vitally important. Doing things that relax you or bring you joy are great ways to feel better. Another underrated bit of self-care is saying no. Such a small word brings such power. If you know you don’t have the mental or physical ability to do something, just say no. Preserve yourself to help yourself. When you have a disease like this, taking care of yourself will pay dividends.

As you can see, there is no one perfect complementary therapy for psoriatic arthritis. You have to do what is best for you and your symptoms. Once again, for some of these, please stay in contact with your medical provider as well. But by all means, take care of yourself!


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Photo Credit: Michal Ludwiczak / EyeEm via Getty Images

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Eddie Applegate

Eddie Applegate

Diagnosed since 2003

Eddie Applegate was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis (PsA) in 2003. His job has involved working behind the scenes in TV ad sales support for over 20 years, but his calling has become sharing his experiences with PsA to help others with the disease. When he isn't working or sharing, you can find him doing crosswords (the more difficult, the better), reading, watching movies, or cheering on his beloved Atlanta Braves or Alabama Crimson Tide.

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