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How to Stay Comfortable (and Productive!) at Work With Psoriatic Arthritis

How to Stay Comfortable (and Productive!) at Work With Psoriatic Arthritis

If you’re living with psoriatic arthritis, your symptoms can make getting through the workday a slog. Morning joint stiffness can turn into aching, throbbing pain as you sit at your desk for hours. Or your fingers might be so swollen and painful that you can hardly write or type. You count down the minutes to the weekend, just so you can rest and recover. Maybe you find yourself needing to take more and more days off because of your pain.

You’re not alone at all. Research has shown that people with the condition have high rates of unemployment, and those who are employed may miss work frequently. A 2014 study in Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology found that more than 35 percent of people surveyed experienced a decline in work productivity, a condition known as “presenteeism.” Those who felt more support from their employer, however, were more productive. Another study found that people with psoriatic arthritis were 15 times more likely to stay in their job if their employer was supportive! On the flipside, research in PLOS One in 2012 showed half of people with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis reported missing work regularly because of their condition.

Tips for Working with Psoriatic Arthritis
Effective treatments are available for psoriatic arthritis, and your doctor can work with you to decide which is right for you. There are things you can do yourself, though, to help manage your disease and its effects on your day-to-day life, including when it comes to work.

  1. Speak with your boss at an appropriate time. Be honest, upfront and specific. Discuss any accommodations you may need—even things like scheduling of doctor’s appointments--and emphasize how they will benefit your colleagues and the company as a whole.
  2. Take breaks to get up and move around. Experts recommend doing this every 45 minutes to an hour if you’re sitting most of the day.
  3. Make your desk comfortable. Adjusting the height of your chair and computer monitor can reduce strain. So can getting a hand when lifting something heavy or standing to get items from shelves instead of reaching for them.
  4. Consider assistive devices. In people with psoriatic arthritis, repetitive movements can easily lead to painful tendinitis. The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests trying a track pad instead of a computer mouse and switching to a different type of keyboard. A variety of other devices are available today that could make life easier – everything from pens and pencils to doorknob levers.
  5. Keep moving. When you’re not at work, exercise! Find something that works for you and stick with it. Yoga, walking, cycling, tai chi, swimming and warm-water exercise can reduce pain from psoriatic arthritis. Consult a doctor, physical therapist or other fitness professional to find out what’s right for you.
  6. Manage stress. Stress can often trigger a flare up, and vice versa.  So it’s best to keep it under control. Many experts suggest trying meditation.
  7. Talk with your doctor. If your pain is constant, your psoriatic arthritis may not be well controlled. Your doctor can review your treatment plan and determine if your medicines are working as well as they should. You may also get a referral to a physical or occupational therapist. 

As with many other conditions, early diagnosis and treatment can lead to better results with psoriatic arthritis.

Medically reviewed in June 2019.

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