Psoriatic Arthritis: How to Ease Morning Stiffness

  • Morning joint stiffness is a common symptom of psoriatic arthritis.
  • The morning stiffness may be due to the buildup of inflammation overnight. 
  • Stretching and applying heat to the stiff area can help relieve the symptom. 

It’s common for people with psoriatic arthritis to experience morning joint stiffness because the condition causes joint swelling and inflammation in the tendon and ligament, says rheumatologist Anca Askanase, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and director of rheumatology clinical trials at NewYork Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center.

Morning stiffness may be caused by a surge of inflammatory cells during nighttime, resulting from your body’s circadian rhythms. Ana-Maria Orbai, MD, an instructor of medicine in the rheumatology division at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, says lack of movement during sleep may also cause morning stiffness. 

Here are tips to ease morning stiffness caused by psoriatic arthritis:

1. Warm Up Your Room

Dr. Askanase explains that “warmth and movement dilate the blood vessels, increase the circulation, and allow for a decrease in inflammation.”

To diminish the joint inflammation that accumulated while you were asleep, increase the temperature in your bedroom by a few degrees before your wake-up time, or turn your electric blanket up a few notches before you get out of bed, suggests the Arthritis Foundation.

Dr. Gavin Hamer, PT, DPT, also recommends making a cup of warm tea or coffee when you get out of bed to warm your hands. 

2. Stock Your Nightstand

Having stiff joints can make it difficult to get out of bed, so make sure that your essentials for easing morning stiffness, such as a heating pad or anti-inflammatory medication, are within arm’s reach, allowing you to use them as soon as you wake up.

3. Head to the Shower

Taking a warm shower or soaking in a warm tub can ease morning stiffness. The Arthritis Foundation also suggests doing some gentle stretching while you’re in the bath or shower.

4. Try Moist Heat

If you don’t fancy getting a shower first thing in the morning, use a moist heating pad to ease stiff joints. The Arthritis Foundation recommends warming a damp washcloth and placing it inside a zipped plastic bag, and applying it on your stiff joints. Another tip is to fill a men’s athletic sock halfway with flaxseed, tie it, and heat it in the microwave for at most two minutes, then apply to the stiff areas. 

Askanase says to limit heat applications to 20 minutes, and wait for the skin to return to its normal temperature before applying heat again. You can also toss your clothes into the dryer to make them warm before you wear them. Dr. Orbai also suggests running warm water over your hands for a few minutes.

5. Stretch Your Joints Gently

Slow, gentle stretches can loosen the muscles and joints and flush them with more blood, says Askanase, who also suggests working with a physical therapist who can recommend the best stretching regimen for you. To ease stiffness in your hands, Orbai suggests opening and closing your fists repeatedly until the stiffness subsides. For back stiffness, try simple, gentle stretches like Yoga to target the stiff area. 

6. Wake Up Earlier

Morning stiffness can make you move more slowly, so you’ll need more time for your morning routine, says Orbai. Rushing yourself can only worsen the morning stiffness. Setting your alarm earlier can give you extra time to heat your joints, take medication, do some stretches, and allow it to take effect. 

7. Work With Your Rheumatologist

Orbai recommends talking to your doctor if you experience extreme stiffness. If you’re taking all of your medications according to the doctor’s prescription but it’s not controlling your symptoms, talk to your doctor about changing your drug regimen. Orbai says the extreme stiffness may mean the disease is progressing and requires an adjustment of medications. 

Askanase also recommends consulting your doctor about taking fish oil supplements. According to research published in June 2015 in the Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry, fish oil can fight inflammation in chronic illnesses, including all types of arthritis. 


Source: Everyday Health

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