7 Stretches for Psoriatic Arthritis You Can Do at Your Desk
If you’re working from home now, you are probably moving around a lot less than you did back at the office—no walks down the hall for meetings or down the block for lunch. And if you have psoriatic arthritis (PsA) this is a recipe for stiff joints. “Sitting for long periods can really exacerbate your symptoms,” says Maura Daly Iversen, a doctor of physical therapy and spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association. Here to help are seven expert-recommended exercises you can do in front of your computer to keep your joints happy.
Make Time to Stretch
To keep PsA symptoms at bay you’ll want to focus on exercises that are easy on your joints. “The inflammation and joint stiffness you’re experiencing will make it difficult to remain in one position for a long time,” Iversen says. Your goal: Try to carve out a few moments every hour to stretch. Just make sure you don’t overdo it. If you are in any pain, take a break. Now let's talk about some moves to try!
First we'll start at the top of your body. To prevent neck stiffness, try this: Simply bring your chin toward your chest, Iversen says, then roll your neck to the right so that your ear is over your shoulder. Then roll your head back to center. Next, roll your neck to the left so that your ear is over your shoulder and then back toward your chest again. Do a complete rotation every hour to keep your neck from getting stiff.
Next up: Torso mobility. While sitting in your chair, rotate your body to the left and then return to center before you rotate to the right. “As you do this try to take a few deep breaths and relax,” Iversen says. The movement should be slow and easy with a gentle relaxation before the end of the movement. “The only way to do this incorrectly is to do this too fast,” she says. “Always do gentle movements.”
“Desk work can lead to tightness between your shoulder blades," Iverson says, "But this exercise will help stretch out your chest and contract the muscles between your shoulder blades.” While sitting at your desk, bring both of your arms up. Keep your elbows bent and place your hands behind your head. Next, bring your chest forward. You should feel a stretch across your chest and across your shoulders.
Knee Leg Extension
Another exercise you can do while sitting at your desk is to stretch one leg at a time. To do so, keep your left leg on the floor stabilizing you. Next extend out your right leg at the knee and straighten your leg. Then bend again. “This helps loosen up the knee joints which tend to be the stiffest when you have psoriatic arthritis,” says Kayla Hazel, a doctor of physical therapy and a physical therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
To do this exercise, keep a stepstool near your desk. While seated, place your heels on the stepstool while keeping your knees straight. Next, try to flex your toes toward your face to stretch your hamstrings (the muscles that run up the backs of your thighs), Iversen says. This will help keep your joints limber.
Hand and Finger Stretch
Start with your elbow resting on your desk with your forearm at a 90-degree angle. Slowly open and close your fist. This exercise is important because your hands and fingers tend to be the primary areas affected by PsA, Hazel says. “Between typing, mouse work, and using the phone, your hands can get stiff and overused so this exercise brings good blood flow to your hands.”
Taking the time to shrug your shoulders throughout the day will help with overall stiffness. To do this exercise, simply shrug your shoulders up and down and then both together, toward the front and then to the reverse. “When we get stressed we often bring our shoulders up to our ears,” Hazel says. “We’ve been seeing so many patients with pain because of stress and this is an easy way to lessen that pain and stiffness.”