Treatment of psoriatic arthritis typically involves medications to manage the condition and prevent flare-ups. However, some people may also want to try complementary therapies, such as chiropractic.

Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a type of arthritis that affects some people with the inflammatory skin condition called psoriasis. As with other forms of arthritis, PsA causes the joints to become stiff, swollen, and painful. It may also affect the skin and nails.

PsA is an autoimmune condition. In PsA, the immune system is overactive and triggers an inflammatory response in the joints and other body tissues. Without treatment, this inflammation can lead to permanent joint damage and deformities.

This article outlines whether chiropractic is a safe and effective complementary treatment for PsA and what to expect during a chiropractic session. We also list some other treatment options for PsA, including medical and dietary options, and home remedies.

A person receives chiropractic care for arthritic painShare on Pinterest
PeopleImages/Getty Images

Chiropractic is a type of complementary therapy that involves adjusting or manipulating the spine, joints, and muscles to alleviate problems in these areas.

Chiropractic may be beneficial for people with PsA. Claimed benefits include:

  • improving blood flow, which helps to reduce inflammation
  • improving spinal alignment, which helps improve the function of the nervous system
  • improving mobility
  • alleviating pain

These benefits can improve the function of the musculoskeletal system, making it easier and more comfortable for a person to perform their daily activities.

Available research into the benefits of chiropractic focuses on its impact on back pain. A 2017 review of existing research reported that the use of spinal manipulation in patients with lower back pain was associated with improvements in pain and back function. The researchers noted, however, that the quality of the available research was limited.

It is also worth noting that people with forms of arthritis related to inflammation such as PsA should be cautious when it comes to chiropractic. If someone is experiencing a flare-up of symptoms, experts advise that they should avoid chiropractic, as the practice could be harmful.

Below are some indications of what to expect before and during chiropractic treatment.

Initial assessment

During the first chiropractic appointment, the chiropractor will gather information that will help them develop an appropriate treatment plan. The chiropractor will likely:

  • ask about a person’s symptoms
  • review the person’s medical history
  • perform a physical exam
  • request an X-ray of the affected area

Treatment

A chiropractor will use their hands or specialized tools to manipulate the spine, joints, or muscles. The treatment may cause mild discomfort, but it should not be painful.

Chiropractic for PsA may involve the following:

  • gentle manipulation of the soft tissues surrounding the joints to boost circulation and alleviate pain and stiffness in those areas
  • gentle stretching of the muscles around joints to improve range of motion and increase mobility
  • application of force or sustained pressure to the spine to help with spinal realignment

Before starting chiropractic treatment, a person should talk with their healthcare professional to make sure the therapy is safe and appropriate for them.

A person must use caution when using chiropractic to treat PsA or other inflammatory conditions. Treatment should not involve high-velocity spinal manipulation. However, the following chiropractic techniques are usually safe:

  • gentle joint mobilization
  • manipulation of the soft tissues surrounding joints
  • low-velocity, low-amplitude techniques

Medical professionals do not recommend chiropractic for people who have any of the following:

A person should discuss their symptoms and any changes to their health at each chiropractic visit, as these factors can affect the treatment they receive on that day.

Side effects

Chiropractic may cause mild side effects, but these tend to pass within a few days. Examples include:

Spinal manipulation carries a risk of more serious side effects, such as a slipped disk and stroke.

The main causes of arthritis are:

  • genetics
  • abnormal metabolism
  • immune system dysfunction

There is no evidence to suggest that chiropractic causes arthritis. On the contrary, chiropractic may help with the management of some forms of arthritis. It involves manipulation of the spine, joints, and muscles, which may help to alleviate pain and improve mobility.

Massage may also be beneficial for PsA. Massage can help alleviate pain and stiffness in areas that are prone to inflammation but not actively inflamed at the time of treatment. It can also help to reduce stress levels, which can otherwise trigger PsA flare-ups.

A person with PsA should talk with their healthcare professional to determine if chiropractic or massage are suitable to treat their symptoms. Some health insurance plans will cover the cost of these therapies.

Conventional and complementary therapies for PsA may help to alleviate symptoms and lower the risk of complications. A person with PsA may seek treatment from various sources, including:

Some additional treatment options for PsA are outlined below.

Additional therapies

Chiropractors may recommend the following adjunctive therapies for a person with active inflammation:

  • Low-level laser: Red and near-infrared light beams deeply penetrate tissues to reduce inflammation and swelling.
  • Infrared sauna: A heated room boosts circulation and may help to alleviate pain.
  • Electrical stimulation: A device called a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine delivers mild electrical pulses through the skin to gently stimulate the muscles and nerves, reducing pain.

Medications

Medications to treat PsA include:

Diet

A person who has PsA should aim to eat a diet that is rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and fiber.

The following foods may be particularly beneficial due to their anti-inflammatory properties:

People should try to avoid foods that may trigger inflammation. Examples include:

  • fried foods
  • margarine, shortening, and lard
  • red or processed meats
  • refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries
  • sodas and other sweetened beverages

Home remedies

The following home remedies may help to reduce PsA flare-ups or alleviate PsA symptoms:

Chiropractic is a complementary treatment that may be effective in reducing PsA. However, a person should talk with their doctor before receiving chiropractic to ensure that the therapy will be safe for them.

Chiropractic involves a chiropractor manipulating a person’s spine, joints, and body tissues using the hands or specialized instruments.

The treatment may help to correct spinal misalignment, reduce inflammation, and alleviate joint pain. However, more research is needed to confirm its potential benefits among people with PsA.

Chiropractic can be a safe treatment for PsA. However, a person should not receive the therapy during an active flare-up. People should also make sure to inform their chiropractor of their current symptoms and health status at each visit, as this will have an impact on the treatment the person receives.