How to Prevent Falls With Psoriatic Arthritisby Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer
There are approximately three million medically treated injuries related to falls in the United States each year. About 25,000 of them are fatal. If you have psoriatic arthritis, you may find yourself unsteady on your feet at times. However, you can take comfort in knowing there are things you can do to minimize your risk of falling. Here are five of them.
1. Maximize treatment
While there is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, there is a range of possible and effective treatments. Finding the best treatment regime can help you feel your best and can also reduce your chance of falling. For example, if you have untreated joint stiffness, you may be able to tolerate the pain, but the pain and stiffness could cause you to have a less natural walking gait and lead to a fall. The available treatment options for psoriatic arthritis are changing so rapidly that even if you have not yet found a treatment, it is worth another conversation with your doctor to discuss the latest available treatment options.
2. Stay strong
As we age, we lose muscle mass and therefore muscle strength. Exercise is a proven way to prevent falls by strengthening the muscles that keep us upright and balanced. If you are unfamiliar with strength training, a physical therapist or certified trainer can show you exercises that will match your abilities. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, in all 50 states individuals can go directly to a physical therapist without a physician referral.
3. Work on your balance
Balance training can benefit those of us with arthritis. In a study involving women with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, an at-home exercise program aimed at improving balance and gait stability showed a decrease in the risk of falling and the fear of falling after only four months. Exercises that emphasize balance such as tai chi or yoga can be helpful in improving your balance. Always check with your doctor before you begin a new exercise program.
4. Take it easy during a flare-up
Flare-ups are times when symptoms are worse than usual. It can be hard to determine what causes flare-ups or how long they will last. However, we know that after the flare-up, the symptoms will eventually get better. During the times when symptoms are worse, this can be a time to rest and give your body the healing time it needs. Moving is extremely important if you have psoriatic arthritis, but finding a balance during times when you need to recharge is also important and can prevent more permanent injury.
5. Use available tools
If you have psoriatic arthritis, there may be days or certain occasions that you need a little extra help. I am wearing sneakers to work this week instead of dress shoes because one of my toe joints is really bothering me. My wider and more padded athletic shoes are a tool to help me get through my day. If your back or legs are feeling particularly sore or weak one day, a wheelchair or walker may be needed to help prevent a fall. If your knee is sore, you might consider a brace or wrap until things settle down again. These tools should not be seen as signs of weakness, rather as a means to live our best lives.