Approximately 40 percent of those who are living with psoriatic arthritis are also living with back pain. When the spine becomes affected, it is known as spondylitis. Spondylitis mainly causes inflammation of the joints between the vertebrae of your spine, and the joints between your spine and pelvis. Psoriatic arthritis is known to cause more problems in the spine than rheumatoid arthritis.
While back pain can be debilitating, it can also be managed. There are different lifestyle and medical approaches that can keep you moving as pain-free as possible.
According to the Spondylitis Association of America, early diagnosis of back pain is key. Long-term joint damage can be warded off better in the first few months after your symptoms arise. If you are living with psoriatic arthritis and develop back pain, it is best not to tough your way through it. Rather, discuss your symptoms with your doctor as soon as possible.
For many of us, workdays involve sitting in front of the computer, which can add pressure to the back muscles and the spine. If you are already experiencing back pain from your psoriatic arthritis, prolonged sitting can be a recipe for disaster. Take frequent stretch breaks to loosen the muscles around your neck and your back. Yoga can also be added into your daily routine. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, 15 or 20 minutes a day of yoga can work wonders.
Exercise is one of the most consistently beneficial treatments for symptom relief of spondylitis, according to the Spondylitis Association of America. Back pain can create muscle weakness and reduced cardiovascular abilities. These deficits can be addressed through regular exercise. It is important that before you exercise, you have an assessment done of your current condition to determine any movements that should be avoided. A trainer can work with you on a program that meets your specific needs.
Warming your back, especially in the morning, can be helpful to reduce stiffness. Warmth allows more blood flow to the area by dilating the blood vessels. You can use a heating pad, hot bath, or warm gel pack to help warm your lower back.
Applying a cold compress or ice pack to the lower back can make you feel better in several ways. Applying ice can reduce the inflammation and therefore reduce the pain. Ice can also numb the sore tissues around the spine, giving you a break from the pain. Be sure to wrap the ice in a towel instead of applying it directly to the bare skin.
According to physical therapist Joseph Brence, there is a misconception that if you have pain, you should not move. However, movement can diminish pain symptoms. Physical therapists are trained to work with different conditions and pain levels and can work specifically with you to improve your pain. Check your insurance to determine if a referral is needed from your primary care doctor before making an appointment.
Which treatment will work best for you will depend on the severity of your condition. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, if the pain is mild enough, you might have success with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Pain may also be managed with a class of medications called disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs). Individuals with severe back pain may also be treated with biologic agents, which are also known as DMARDs.
Keep a journal
If you have back pain, you may find that some days are better than others based on your level of activity and your treatments. It may be recommended that you try a combination of treatments if your back pain is difficult to manage. Keeping track of your activity level and the effectiveness of different treatments will help you and your doctor determine the best combination of care.
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Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., is a freelance health writer and the C.E.O. of Tracy’s Smoothie Place. She serves as the expert on a weekly radio show about health and wellness and is the author of Making Life Better for a Baby with Acid Reflux and multiple articles about the cost of caregiving. Learn more about Tracy and what healthy living services and products she can offer on her website. She can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @drinksmoothies.