Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an inflammatory disease with a wide range of symptoms — from common challenges with joint pain and stiffness to surprising issues like eye disease. While every person’s care plan is unique, PsA is generally managed by a combination of medication, supplemental treatments, and therapies.
Physical therapy is a good option if you have a lot of stiffness or mobility issues. While there isn’t much dedicated research into the effect of physical therapy on PsA, some studies have reported it improves disease activity, range of movement, pain management, and quality of life.
“Because psoriatic arthritis can affect basically any part of the body, your exercise plan could include any number of things,” explains Gregory Minnis, DPT, a physical therapist (PT) with experience treating people with PsA. “It will depend on what joint or area of the body [the mobility issues] are in.”
We asked Minnis what exercises he utilizes when working with clients living with PsA. From your ankles to your wrists, these 13 PT-approved movements have the whole body covered — and you can do them from the comfort of your home.
It’s common for people with psoriatic arthritis to have heel and Achilles tendon pain.
“You don’t want to do a lot of aggressive stretching of the Achilles if it’s injured,” Minnis explains, “But trying to get some movement is healthy.”
Luckily, these are the types of exercises you can’t really overdue. Minnis recommends doing them every so often throughout the day, especially in the morning or before a physical therapy session. They’re an easy way to get a little stiffness relief.
PsA affects joints throughout the body, including the knees. Physical therapy can increase your range of motion and decrease your knee pain when you’re walking or standing.
“It’s like doing a modified squat, but it keeps you in better form,” Minnis says. “Because your knee joints won’t go over your toes, there’s no added stress on the knee joint.”
Bonus: it’s a super functional exercise for maintaining or improving your ability to get in and out of chairs.
If you have difficulty doing a sit-to-stand, try doing these straight-leg raises instead. It’s also a good quadricep, hip flexor, and hip strengthening exercise.
If you’re having issues any lower extremity issues, it’s really important to work on hip stability.
“With better hip stability, there’s not as much excessive joint movement in the hip, knee, and ankle when someone is standing and walking”, says Minnis.
Better stability can help with joint pain and overall movement quality. PT exercises aim to stabilize someone’s hip and entire lower body when they’re walking and standing.
This exercise helps strengthen your gluteus maximus, which is essential for hip stability and mobility.
“I also like doing bridges with a band around the knees, like a Theraband, and having the patient lightly resist the band as they bridge,” Minnis adds.
Using a band helps fire up your gluteus medius and other hip abductors, which is also good for hip stabilization.
Make sure to engage your abdominal muscles, and don’t lift your lower leg off the floor. This exercise strengthens your gluteus medius, the hip abductors, and the hip external rotators.
The scapular area and the upper back work similarly to the hip and the lower body, Minnis explains. If you have a strong upper back and shoulder blades, then you’ll have a stronger base for your shoulder, elbow, and wrist to work from.
“This is pretty mellow, low impact stuff, just to get increased mobility,” says Minnis.
It’s important to make sure you don’t overextend your back. And don’t worry if you can’t hit the wall with your thumbs — as long as you’re trying to lift your arms in that direction, you’re working on that shoulder mobility.
The standing Y has another benefit, too: “I really like this exercise because it encourages good posture,” Minnis says.
The wall T is an isometric exercise because you’re pushing into something that isn’t going to move. It’s good for your core, trunk, shoulders, and upper back.
“This exercise is simple and shouldn’t cause pain for your postural stabilizers,” Minnis explains. “If you can’t stand or walk as much, the muscles that keep you erect and upright will become weak, and this is an easy way to try to strengthen them.”
You can modify it by sitting in a chair instead of standing.
Good wrist extension is vital. Without it, you’ll lose much of your grip strength, Minnis explains.
If you have difficulty extending your wrist, try keeping it in gentle motion as much as possible, so it doesn’t get even stiffer.
“This simple exercise is beneficial after prayer stretches because they can sometimes compress the wrist joint,” Minnis says.
The main goal of physical therapy is to improve your quality of life by increasing flexibility, mobility, and joint stability. A physical therapist can help you select exercises based on where your PsA symptoms present in your body and will help track your progress and modify movements appropriately.
Your physical therapy routine may be challenging, but it should never be painful.
“With anything exercise related, if it causes a lot of pain, you have to stop doing it,” Minnis says. “We would look for ways to modify it.”
You know your body best. Tweak the rep count, modify the exercise, and change your routine as you see fit. Your physical therapy plan will be unique to your treatment goals.
Medically reviewed on April 24, 2023
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