Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a form of arthritis that mainly affects people who have psoriasis or those with a family history of psoriasis. Often, those with PsA have joint pain and inflammation combined with the inflamed, itchy, red patches of skin covered with silvery scales that are typical of psoriasis itself.
The progression of PsA may be slowed with traditional therapies and the symptoms may ease. Alternative remedies may complement these therapies and may help people with PsA feel more in control of the disease.
Apple cider vinegar, when applied to psoriasis on the scalp, may help to treat PsA.
There are many natural remedies to try for PsA. Most of these do not have much scientific research supporting their use. The use of these remedies is backed mainly by anecdotal evidence.
Natural remedies for psoriatic arthritis include the following:
- Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar has a lot of buzz for, supposedly, being a miracle cure-all. For treating PsA, people may find it useful if applied to patches of psoriasis on the scalp. However, this should be avoided if the areas are cracked and bleeding.
- Tea tree oil. This essential oil may ease skin inflammation caused by PsA. However, science is cautious to recommend this as a treatment because it may aggravate more sensitive skin.
- Oats. Adding oats to a bath or using oats in a paste can help relieve itchy patches of psoriasis. While there's little scientific evidence supporting oats as a treatment for psoriasis, oats are highly regarded in folk medicine as one of nature's best skin soothers.
- Turmeric. Turmeric is highly regarded for its anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have shown turmeric may be able to alter gene expression, easing PsA symptoms. People with PsA can either add the spice liberally to their food or take turmeric capsules.
- Capsaicin. Capsaicin is what makes chili peppers hot and may be useful by blocking pain receptors. Some research has also found that when used in over-the-counter creams, capsaicin may reduce psoriasis symptoms as well.
- Aloe vera. This soothing balm from an aloe plant may provide cooling comfort for irritated patches of psoriatic skin. However, aloe vera should only be used topically and never ingested. Taking it orally may be dangerous.
- Epsom salts. A warm bath with Epsom salts may help reduce joint pain and inflammation. Epsom salts contain magnesium, a mineral that boosts bone health and may soothe itchy skin. Warm water also helps loosen joints and relieve pain. People with diabetes should be wary when using soaks of Epsom salts as they can stimulate the release of insulin.
- Oregon grape. Some studies suggest that applying creams with Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) can ease psoriasis skin irritation. Like aloe vera, Oregon grape should only be used topically.
- Fish oil. Joint pain may be reduced by fish oil. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil help block inflammation and ease painful swelling.
- Ginger. A root of ginger is well-known in folk medicine for having many anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies have shown that taking ginger three times a day can reduce knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.
When trying these natural remedies, people with PsA should remember that these remedies are not a substitute for prescribed treatments.
Massage therapy may help to alleviate joint pain and provide relief from arthritis-related discomfort.
There are a number of alternative therapies available to complement PsA treatment. These therapies should not replace the traditional treatments for PsA but can provide some additional relief and quality of life benefits.
Alternative therapies include the following:
- Massage therapy. A massage therapist trained in dealing with PsA can help relieve joint discomfort and release tight muscles and joints. A massage can provide significant relief from arthritis-related discomfort.
- Acupuncture. This technique involves sticking needles into various pressure points to relieve chronic pain. No studies show its usefulness for PsA but some patients with chronic pain do find acupuncture helpful.
- Acupressure. Acupressure involves putting pressure onto different points of the body to reduce pain and pressure, stimulate the immune system, and release tension.
Eating more healthily will not cure PsA but eating well does promote good health and well-being. People with PsA should strive to maintain a healthy weight and stay mindful of their diet.
Following these healthy eating tips may help:
- eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
- getting protein through lean meat, beans, and legumes
- choosing low-fat and fat-free dairy products
- avoiding refined sugar and bad carbohydrates such as processed white breads and pasta
- choosing whole grains when possible
- drinking plenty of water
Anyone with PsA may benefit from keeping a food journal and planning healthful meals.
The symptoms of PsA often flare up during periods of stress or fatigue. It may help people with PsA to change their lifestyle to reduce stress since stress is associated with increased inflammation. Doing so also helps people to get adequate sleep so that the body can heal itself.
The following tips and suggestions may help:
- Relaxing. Using aromatherapy, breathing techniques, and keeping a journal may help manage stress and promote relaxation.
- Getting gentle exercise. Exercise is recommended for people with PsA. They may find yoga and tai chi particularly useful for helping to loosen stiff joints and release stress.
- Meditating. Meditation may result in a deeper level of relaxation that may help alleviate stress, so helping prevent or manage symptoms of PsA.
- Getting enough sleep. Sleep is crucial to allowing inflammation to heal and to promoting good health.
- Taking a warm bath. Spa therapy, including hydrotherapy like a warm bath, can loosen joints and ease pain and inflammation associated with PsA. These therapies can also promote relaxation and decrease stress.
- Practicing mindfulness. Being mindful involves checking in with the body and taking stock of how its feeling. It also involves being aware of any situations that may cause unnecessary stress.
An increased sense of physical awareness can help people to catch a flare of symptoms early so that they deal with it before it worsens. Doing so may prevent a worse flare from occurring.
When combining lifestyle remedies with other forms of treatment for PsA, people may find an increased quality of life and more relief. However, lifestyle remedies and natural therapies are not a substitute for a doctor's care and traditional treatments.
Swollen fingers, foot pain, and lower back pain may be symptoms of PsA.
Symptoms of PsA include those of both arthritis and psoriasis. The symptoms may vary from person to person and include a combination of the following:
- swollen fingers and toes
- lower back pain
- foot pain
- patches of red, itchy, inflamed skin covered in silvery scales
- swollen, painful joints
- joints that are red or warm to the touch
Most of the time, people with PsA will notice the disease is marked by times of flares and remissions. During flares, the symptoms will worsen noticeably. During remissions, the symptoms will reduce or even disappear.
When to see a doctor
Anyone who thinks they are experiencing symptoms of PsA should see a doctor for diagnosis and to begin treatment. As the disease is progressive, beginning treatment early is crucial.
Anyone with psoriasis or a family history of psoriasis should be screened regularly for PsA by a doctor.
People with PsA should also see a doctor regularly and should speak to one before starting or changing treatments. This includes any natural or alternative remedies.
Some natural remedies may interact with prescribed medication or may not be recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women.