Must-Have Gear for Psoriatic Arthritisby Lara DeSanto Health Writer
Life with a chronic condition like psoriatic arthritis (PsA) often means you have to get creative, since symptoms like joint pain, stiffness, and fatigue threaten to throw a wrench in your plans on the daily. And whether you’re newly diagnosed or a PsA vet, you can always learn new ways to problem-solve for this inflammatory condition. To make life a little easier, we spoke with people across the nation living with PsA and gathered their recommendations for items to carry on-the-go with PsA. Here are 10 things to stash in your car, purse, or backpack to be prepared for anything.
Pain Meds for Days
One of the main tasks of managing PsA? Keeping pain under control. That’s why the top item people with PsA recommended was medication. Your doc can help you figure out the best option for you—that may be an over-the-counter drug like ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a prescription medication. “I try to keep on hand two days’ worth of medication,” says Jaime Lyn Moy, 43, of Detroit.
Wash Cloths for Hot Compresses
Many people with PsA say heat does wonders for their pain, whether that be a hot shower or a heating pad. But what are the best heat options to carry with you when you’re out and about or traveling?
“When I do travel, I bring my own washcloths to make a hot compress," says Jenn Pellegrin, 36, of Jurupa Valley, CA. Use hot water from your hotel sink or request a cup of hot water from a flight attendant to make this work on the go.
Capsaicin for More Heat
Another awesome option to get the heat you may crave for your joints? Capsaicin. This over-the-counter medication is a pain reliever found naturally in chile peppers—it’s what gives them their spice. Capsaicin products may provide temporary pain relief for conditions like arthritis, according to Harvard Health. “Capsaicin patches are great for my lower back pain—they get really hot,” Pellegrin says. They also come in creams, lotions, and sticks, all available at your local pharmacy.
A Thick Pen
Shirley Wallace, 49, of Pulaski, NY, recommends carrying a chunky pen for PsA that affects your hands and fingers. “I always keep a thicker pen in my car because with my fingers being curled, I don’t have the reach a healthy person has,” she explains. “I can use it to push buttons.” This may come in handy the next time you’re paying at the parking garage or toll booth—or, you know, the next time you really do need to jot something down ($9.95, Amazon).
Braces and Splints
Depending on where your PsA flares up most in your body, you may find wearing a splint or a brace to be helpful. They can make movement easier and even reduce pain and swelling, according the National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF). “I do carry my knee brace—I got to the point where my knee was swelling and hurting when I would extend it in certain directions,” Pellegrin says. “I definitely recommend something that fits a little more snugly.”
Wallace swears by her loop-handled tweezers to help her grip. “They’re not the normal tweezers you have to squeeze—you put your thumb and index finger through the little holes,” Wallace explains. “With the deformities in my hand, I can’t push my credit card all the way in and pull it out fast enough for the machine to register it, so I put my credit card in these tweezers, pull it out really fast and go—job done.”
Other Grabber Tools
Grabber tools were another commonly recommended item, and there are tons of varieties available online, like this $29.97 option from Amazon. Wallace also recommends a magnetic grabber ($19.99, Amazon). “In case something small and metal falls in between the car seats, where my hands do not fit, I will use this tool to pick it up,” she says.
Not only can a good set of nail clippers be used as a tool, like the tweezers, but they are also handy for those who have nail psoriasis, a condition that affects many people with PsA. Nail psoriasis can lead to crumbling nails, nails separating from the fingers or toes, and discoloration, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Pellegrin says this is why she carries her clippers, so she can quickly manage nails that split often. A slanted pair makes it easier to clip with more control, too ($13.99, Amazon).
A PsA-friendly Snack
Another item Moy carries with her on-the-go? Snacks. “I usually have granola bars—something easy that won’t spoil.” Some people adjust their diet as part of their PsA management. While there’s no one diet that is recommended for PsA, you may find some foods trigger or reduce your inflammation, says the NPF. Other PsA patient faves? Medjool dates, dried mango, and plantain chips.
If PsA affects your hands, it can be helpful to have a tool for opening jars or bottles, says Wallace, like this one for $14.35 on Amazon. Wallace’s favorite, though, is a bit harder to track down—but possible. “They no longer make it, but I catch them on eBay every so often—it’s called the Safety Jar Opener [by Culinare]. It goes over the top of a jar or bottle and has different adjustments. That is the only product I have tried that works time and time again with the severity of my hands.” (There were several available on eBay around $20 when we searched!)
Think Outside the Box—and Do What Works for You
When building a toolkit for your PsA, trial and error is part of the process. “I know if I want to do something, I may have to adapt and think outside the box,” Wallace says. That means you may try one product and find it does nothing for you. Persevere! There’s something out there for everyone if you get creative and listen to your body. “And don’t be embarrassed to ask for help,” urges Wallace. “Everyone does at some point in their life. Don’t let this hold you back.”