9 Tips for Doing Household Chores with Psoriatic Arthritisby Claire Gillespie Health Writer
Everyday tasks like household chores can be difficult when you have psoriatic arthritis, a condition estimated to affect between 18 and 42 percent of people with psoriasis. While you might be tempted to stop doing chores, this can be counterproductive. “In general, people with joint swelling and back pain do better when they are moving,” rheumatologist Natalie MacLean, M.D. said in an email interview with HealthCentral. “Try to remain active in your ordinary day-to-day life as much as possible.”
Clean with a flat hand
When washing windows, worktops, or other flat surfaces, don’t grip the cloth or sponge tightly. Use a flat hand to clean instead, says occupational therapist Pooja Shah, OTD, OTR/L. And don’t remove water from a cloth by twisting or wringing it out. “Press the cloth or sponge against the side of the sink with your palm to squeeze out excess water,” said Shah in an email interview with HealthCentral. “If you do have to use a pinching or gripping action, take frequent breaks to rest your hands briefly.”
Use two hands instead of one
Many activities around the house encourage your fingers to drift towards your little finger, such as lifting a saucepan or plate with one hand. Avoid this movement as much as possible, as it can exacerbate the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis, like pain and stiffness around the joints. “Use two hands instead or, where possible, slide these objects over the work surface rather than carrying them,” advises Pooja Shah.
Let your larger joints do the work
Stronger, larger joints can manage greater forces than smaller, weaker joints, so use your hip or shoulder instead of your hand to push a door open or close a drawer, and the palms of your hands under a plate or cup instead of taking all the weight through your fingers. “Push objects with your weight rather than pulling with your fingers,” says Pooja Shah. “This lets your hip and leg joints do the work instead of your arm and hand joints.”
Optimize your grips
Small handles on things like mops, kitchen tools, and gardening equipment can cause unnecessary stress on your fingers, warns Chirag Shah, M.D., co-founder of Accesa Labs in an email interview with HealthCentral. Always go for tools with larger handles that are easier to squeeze with your hands. Another way to make gripping easier is padding — on everything from utensils to keys. If necessary, buy foam to pad these items yourself. “You will find it takes less effort to grip a large soft handle than a small, hard one,” explains Chirag Shah.
Use correct lifting and handling techniques
Whether you’re carrying a basket of laundry or a box of cleaning supplies, hold objects close to your body with both arms rather than using your fingers. “This way the larger shoulder and elbow joints take the stress rather than the smaller wrist and finger joints,” explains Pooja Shah. “Lift objects by bending the hips and knees instead of bending at the spine.” Chirag Shah recommends using a small rolling cart to transport grocery bags, etc., as this takes stress off your joints.
A regular, simple exercise routine will make all movement a little easier. “Don’t stay in a position for too long,” advises Pooja Shah. “While sitting, follow ergonomic precautions: hips and knees at 90 degrees and back straight and supported. Your feet should be flat on the ground and if you’re shorter or table height is off, put something under your feet so they are not dangling.” If you don’t have a foot stool, an old cardboard box with unwanted items works just as well.
Try to reduce stress
Yoga and Pilates are great workouts for joint and core strength and postural correction, but they also help to relieve stress. “Stress and anxiety can cause flare ups of psoriatic arthritis, so techniques that improve mental health will have direct affect on your physical health,” says Pooja Shah. Try other stress-busting activities such as meditation (you don’t have to sit on the floor to do this; you can meditate in any comfortable position) and spending time in nature.
Get plenty of sleep
A sufficient amount of good quality sleep is vital for all aspects of your health, and lack of sleep can make your psoriatic arthritis symptoms worse and make day-to-day tasks more difficult. Adopt good sleep hygiene practices, such as limiting daytime naps, avoiding caffeine before bedtime, and keeping your bedroom dark, cool and comfortable. If joint pain andstiffness is causing sleepless nights, don’t hesitate to seek help from your rheumatologist, says MacLean.
Keep in touch with your rheumatologist
Even if you avoid techniques that make pain and stiffness worse, you will still have flare ups. “It is essential to discover the root cause of that pain and treat it appropriately,” says MacLean. “A good relationship with your rheumatologist is essential, to help you explore the wide range of medications available, some of which can be tailored to your particular situation.” Your rheumatologist can help you understand your symptoms, come up with a care plan, and improve your quality of life.