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PsA: Using Telehealth for Physical and Occupational Therapy

Why you may want to consider telehealth appointments with a physical or occupational therapist during the pandemic.

PsA: Using Telehealth for Physical and Occupational Therapy

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a type of inflammatory arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis. It is caused by the same underlying abnormal immune system activity that causes psoriasis skin symptoms—with psoriasis, it causes skin lesions, and with psoriatic arthritis it causes inflammation in the joints. This can lead to joint stiffness, pain, and tenderness. Over time, it can cause permanent joint damage and even disability.

There is no cure for psoriatic arthritis, but the condition can be controlled and managed with treatment. The best approach to treatment will vary from person to person and will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of psoriasis and the severity of psoriatic arthritis. Treatment often includes a medication to control and reduce inflammatory activity in the body.

Psoriatic arthritis and exercise
Staying active is also an important aspect of treatment. Though exercise and physical activity can be harder when a person is experiencing pain and inflammation in the joints (and it may even seem counterintuitive), it has a number of benefits, including:

  • Reducing inflammation
  • Keeping joints flexible
  • Strengthening tendons and muscles
  • Helping a person maintain a healthy weight

A treatment plan for psoriatic arthritis may include physical therapy or occupational therapy.

Physical and occupational therapy
Physical therapy refers to the use of specific exercises and exercise equipment to help improve a person’s physical capabilities or regain physical capabilities that have been limited or lost.

With occupational therapy, a patient will work with an occupational therapist to determine how a disease has impacted their normal everyday activities and how to adjust to these impacts. This may involve the use of assistive devices or different approaches to performing daily tasks.

Telehealth appointments
During the pandemic, many healthcare providers and patients have utilized telehealth appointments. Telehealth refers to virtual appointments where you connect with your healthcare provider using an application on a computer or smartphone. This allows people to continue care while maintaining distance and limiting their exposure. While telehealth may not be right for every patient or every appointment, it may be a good fit for some people with psoriatic arthritis who are working with a physical therapist or occupational therapist.

If you decide to schedule a telehealth appointment with one of these healthcare providers, the following tips and strategies may help you make the most out of your appointment.

  • Make sure your internet connection is strong and reliable.
  • Ask your healthcare provider if there is any paperwork you need to fill out ahead of your appointment.
  • Make sure you are in a well-lighted area where your HCP can see you and make sure you have plenty of room to move around—a physical therapist or occupational therapist may need to see you perform certain movements or exercises.
  • For occupational therapy, consider what aspects of your life are impacted and how you might demonstrate these—for example, if you are having difficulty opening jars or chopping vegetables, you may want to be in or near your kitchen for your appointment.
  • Think about your goals ahead of time—what do you want to get out of your appointment?

In addition to physical or occupational therapy, your healthcare provider may recommend exercising on your own. Because PsA can make certain movements more difficult and certain exercises can put unwanted stress on your joints, talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new form of exercise. Meeting with your healthcare provider to discuss strategies for exercising safely may be another good opportunity to use telehealth.

Medically reviewed in February 2021.

Sources:
Cleveland Clinic. "Psoriatic Arthritis."
Arthritis Foundation. "Psoriatic Arthritis."
Harvard Health Publishing. "Psoriasis."
UpToDate. "Patient education: Psoriatic arthritis (Beyond the Basics)."
Arthritis Foundation. "Physical Therapy for Arthritis."
National Psoriasis Foundation. "Living With Psoriasis."
MedicineNet. "Medical Definition of Physical Therapy."
MedicineNet. "Medical Definition of Occupational therapist."
American Physical Therapy Association. "Telehealth in Physical Therapy in Light of COVID-19."
American Occupational Therapy Association. "OT and Telehealth in the Age of COVID-19."
National Psoriasis Foundation. "3 Ways to Improve Your Telehealth Visit."
American Academy of Dermatology Association. "7 simple steps to prepare for your telemedicine appointment."
Harvard Health Publishing. "The doctor will “see” you now: Teledermatology in the era of COVID-19."

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