When you’re living with psoriatic arthritis, one of the main areas where you might experience joint pain, swelling, and stiffness is in the small joints in your hands and feet. Psoriatic arthritis symptoms can interfere with your ability to perform routine tasks, such as typing on your computer or locking your doors when you leave the house.
There’s no cure for psoriatic arthritis, which means it’s especially important to control the underlying inflammation in the affected joints to help prevent pain and loss of function, says Melissa Prestipino, DPT, owner of Maize & Blue Rehab in Sparta, New Jersey. Different techniques can provide relief for both hand and foot pain caused by psoriatic arthritis, Prestipino says.
Try these eight strategies to help find relief from psoriatic arthritis hand and foot pain.
1. Establish the right healthcare team.
It may seem like a hassle to coordinate several specialists, but working with the appropriate healthcare experts can help you minimize psoriatic arthritis symptoms quickly and efficiently.
“It’s key to work with a rheumatologist, as they will serve as a healthcare provider who can help ensure you’re taking proper medications to try to control the inflammation effects,” Prestipino says.
Who else to include on your care team may vary based on the severity of your condition. You may want to meet with a physical therapist (PT) to address mobility challenges and an occupational therapist (OT) to help make daily activities easier.
For more severe cases of psoriatic arthritis, an orthopedist may be a beneficial addition to your care team to discuss the role of surgical options for management of your arthritis.
Finally, since psoriatic arthritis can go hand in hand with psoriasis, which affects the skin, meeting with a dermatologist may also be helpful.
2. Try hand stretches.
When you’re dealing with joint pain and stiffness, exercise may be the last thing on your mind, but it can help improve joint mobility. Doing even 15 minutes of hand stretches each day can keep your finger joints from becoming stiff, especially after waking up, Prestipino says. “Finger and hand stretching can also help prevent any loss of range of motion,” she adds.
3. Get a massage.
Massage does more than relax your mind and body. It also helps increase circulation and blood flow to your muscles and joints, which can help decrease muscle pain, soreness, and the loss of range of motion and function, Prestipino says.
“Massage can help increase the release of endorphins, which helps control stress, leading to lower risk of inflammatory flare-ups,” she explains.
Try to find a masseuse who has experience working with people who have chronic joint conditions.
4. Wear splints or braces.
Wearing a splint or brace may seem cumbersome at first, but it can help keep affected joints in better position, leading to less pain with motion, Prestipino says.
“Splinting can also help protect joints that are hypermobile, weak, or unstable, [in addition to promoting] functional mobility and decreasing the loss of range of motion,” she adds.
An OT or PT can recommend which splints or braces may best assist you.
5. Soak your feet.
This is another easy way to promote circulation and blood flow to muscles and joints throughout the body and loosen things up, Prestipino says. “Decreasing pain and inflammation with baths can help maintain movement help with range of motion.”
As an added bonus, she notes, bathing — even if it’s just your feet — before bedtime can help relax the muscles and promote a better night’s sleep.
6. Wear properly fitting shoes and inserts.
Ill-fitting shoes that don’t provide adequate support for your feet can cause all kinds of problems and discomfort, even if you don’t have psoriatic arthritis. But having the condition is even more reason to ensure your shoes fit properly. Supportive footwear can protect loosened joints and help keep them from overstraining and possibly causing more injury, Prestipino says.
“Having proper support at the feet can impact the forces from the ground up, ensuring that other joints, such as the ankles, knees, hips, and lower back, have less strain,” she says. “And with associated skin conditions of psoriatic arthritis, wearing wide enough toe boxes can also help prevent irritation or friction of the skin.”
7. Try a warm or cool compress.
Applying a warm or cool compress for 10 minutes at a time can help alleviate psoriatic arthritis symptoms. Heat therapy boosts blood flow to reduce stiffness, while cold therapy slows blood flow, brings down swelling, and provides a numbing effect that may help with pain. Wrap the compress in a towel to avoid skin irritation.
8. Rest when needed.
It may seem obvious, but sometimes just taking a break at the first sign of symptoms, such as joint pain, can be more helpful than you realize. Next time you feel symptoms cropping up, stop whatever you’re doing to give your hands and feet a few minutes to relax. This provides an opportunity for your mind to take a break at the same time.