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Managing Psoriatic Arthritis Muscle Pain

Posted on June 22, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A.
Article written by
Sarah Winfrey

Muscle pain is not one of the most common symptoms of psoriatic arthritis (PsA). However, some people diagnosed with the condition experience muscle aches and pain related to their diagnosis, in addition to the more common joint pain.

Understanding how muscle pain can be tied to psoriatic arthritis is important. That knowledge can help you recognize what is going on with your body and make sure you get the necessary treatments to keep doing your daily activities and to maintain your well-being and quality of life. Here’s what you need to know about managing muscle pain with psoriatic arthritis.

What Causes Muscle Pain With Psoriatic Arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis can be connected to muscle pain in several ways.

PsA is characterized by inflammation due to an errant immune system response. Sometimes, inflammation in the joints also spreads to the places where the tendons and the ligaments connect to those affected joints (entheses). This results in a condition known as enthesitis. Because tendons and ligaments connect muscles to bones, enthesitis pain can feel like muscle pain, especially during psoriatic arthritis flares.

Article: 3 key treatments to help you manage psoriatic arthritis

Many MyPsoriasisTeam members experience enthesitis. One shared, “I am experiencing enthesitis in both of my shoulders, so I have to sleep on my back (I’m normally a side sleeper), and I’m still in pain.”

Another wrote, “I have enthesitis everywhere: in my neck, both shoulders, my left wrist, etc.”

Psoriatic arthritis can also lead to muscle pain in other ways. Many people diagnosed with PsA find that they don’t want to move as much because they are in pain. However, lack of exercise can cause the muscles to weaken. Muscle weakness may cause any amount of movement or exercise to lead to muscle aches and pains.

Some MyPsoriasisTeam members resonate with this struggle to exercise. One explained, “People say, ‘You just need to exercise more.’ They seriously have no idea how bad the pain is!”

Another shared that they “definitely lost muscle over four years without any treatment for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.”

How To Manage Muscle Pain With Psoriatic Arthritis

There are many options when it comes to treating muscle pain associated with psoriatic arthritis.

Regular Exercise

One of the best and most proactive ways to keep your body in good shape is to exercise regularly. Don’t let psoriatic arthritis or its symptoms keep you away from the activities you love — talk to a specialist about how you can remain active with your diagnosis. You may need to work with an exercise professional experienced in helping those diagnosed with PsA. They can help you develop a plan that will work for you.

Exercise can also help you maintain a healthy weight. There are some connections between obesity and worsening PsA symptoms, so weight management could be helpful in managing your aches and pains.

Many MyPsoriasisTeam members love yoga and report that it helps them feel better. One member explained that they enjoy the practice because it is low-impact and can be done sitting down. Another explained, “I have psoriatic arthritis and wake up with pain every day. I really enjoy doing yoga. It helps me with my pain and with staying calm in these uncertain times.”

Work With a Physical Therapist

If you’re not sure how to start exercising, or if psoriatic arthritis symptoms have prevented you from exercising, you may want to work with a physical therapist. These specialists are trained to help you strengthen and lengthen your muscles in ways that should help minimize pain and maximize effectiveness. If you have specific areas of your body that often hurt, the therapist may be able to recommend exercises to address that pain.

Many MyPsoriasisTeam members have shared their experiences with physical therapy. One wrote, “I'm still going to physical therapy, and it helps me some.”

Another said, “Physical therapy got me moving, and my stiffness is better.”

Alternate Heat and Cold

When your muscles are sore, try alternating hot and cold compresses on the sore areas. Heat helps alleviate pain and tension by loosening the muscles around the joints and increasing flexibility and circulation. Cold, on the other hand, helps reduce inflammation and dull pain.

Note that because heat and cold are psoriasis triggers for many people who also have psoriasis, you may need to avoid one or the other of these treatments. You know your body best, so choose based on that knowledge.

Try Alternative Therapies

Many people find that alternative therapies, like massage or acupuncture, help with their muscle pain. You may schedule massage or acupuncture sessions regularly if your muscle pain occurs often, or you can simply schedule appointments as you need them.

Some MyPsoriasisTeam members swear by these therapies. One explained, “I highly recommend getting a good massage therapist that understands pain and works with you to heal. I'm blessed to have found my guy.”

Another who started acupuncture shared that they “felt a huge difference after just the first session yesterday.”

Medications for Pain Relief

If your muscle pain is negatively affecting your quality of life or causing you significant discomfort, medications may help relieve it. Over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen could help. However, if you are already taking NSAIDs for psoriatic arthritis, you should consult your rheumatologist before taking more.

You may also ask your doctor about muscle relaxants. Although muscle relaxants have not been shown to help with psoriatic arthritis itself, they could help reduce your muscle pain — especially if it is extreme.

Treat Your Psoriatic Arthritis

If your muscle pain is tied to your PsA diagnosis, treating the condition could reduce your enthesitis and help you stay active. This, in turn, could potentially prevent muscle aches and pains.

You have many options when it comes to treating psoriatic arthritis. In addition to NSAIDs, you may be prescribed medications including:

These medications can all have side effects, so talk to your health care provider to develop your treatment plan. Although none of these PsA treatments will take your muscle pain away immediately during flare-ups, they can be very helpful in providing relief.

Getting Support for Psoriatic Arthritis

MyPsoriasisTeam offers an online support system for people with psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis and their loved ones. More than 94,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their own experiences of life with PsA or psoriasis.

Have you experienced muscle pain with psoriatic arthritis? What has worked best to relieve that pain? Share your experience in the comments below or by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Ariel D. Teitel, M.D., M.B.A. is the clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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