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When Sitting Hurts: Psoriatic Arthritis Pain

When Sitting Hurts

When Sitting Hurts: Psoriatic arthritis can be debilitating and cause increasing agony. Marianne was part of the panel that was reached out to help compile useful information about the disease as well as ways to help ease the pain. Here are the excerpts from the article written by Krisha McCoy : 

“Sitting can be a real pain if you have psoriatic arthritis. Amanda Steyer knows this all too well. 

“One of the pieces of advice I get from people in my life who don’t have psoriatic arthritis is that I should sit down and rest more, maybe spend a day or two in bed until I feel better,” says Steyer, a mother of five who lives in Bristol, Connecticut. 

She was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis eight years ago, although says she's had symptoms since she was 4 years old, and was always told they were just growing pains. “What these well-meaning people don’t understand is that sitting for long periods — or sometimes even short periods — can lead to more pain and stiffness,” she says. 

What Causes Stiffness After Sitting 

“When I sit for long periods, it’s as if my body seizes up,” Steyer, 42, says. “My joints get stiffer and more painful the longer I sit.” 

She's not alone. One of the hallmark symptoms of psoriatic arthritis is increased stiffness after a night’s sleep or a prolonged period of rest. People may experience joint stiffness, hip pain, or pain in the legs after sitting. 

“Shifting position can help a bit, but eventually there is no comfortable position in which to sit,” she says. “My legs will start to ache, and then that pain turns into worsening joint pain in the hips, knees, ankles, and lower back.” 

RELATED: Arthritis in Your Twenties: Noelia's Story 

Steyer recalls a time when she drove home from vacation with her family, and the drive took much longer than the expected four hours. “Even though we stopped several times along the way so I could get out of the van and move around, I arrived home in significant pain,” she says. It took two days for her body to start to get back to normal. 

How to Relieve Pain 

Steyer says she has to find a balance between movement and rest as part of her psoriatic arthritis management. “Sitting for long periods of time can have just as great a negative effect on my body as physically overdoing it,” she says. 

If you have to sit in one position for long stretches of time, there are steps you can take to help relieve pain and stiffness. 

“I like to use what I call the 30-30 rule,” says Marvin Smith,DPT, PT, CSCS, a physical therapist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. If you're in one position for 30 minutes, change your spine and hip position for 30 seconds into the opposite direction. If you're sitting in a slouched position, stand up as tall as you can or arch your back and straighten out your knees for 30 seconds every 30 minutes. 

Physical therapist Marianne Ryan, founder and clinical director of Marianne Ryan Physical Therapy in New York City, also recommends plenty of movement in people with psoriatic arthritis. “Movement will bring more fluid to the joint,” she says. “Get up every hour on the hour." 

Ryan recommends that people with psoriatic arthritis use a supportive chair, along with cushions underneath the buttocks and in the lumbar area. “As you sit, gravity is pushing down on the body,” she says. “A layer of cushioning will soften the blow.” 

She also says to stand whenever you can. For instance, if you're on a long phone call, use headsets or a speakerphone, and get up and walk around. 

Stretches and Movements to Try 

“On days when I find myself exhausted and not wanting to move much, I do my best to get up and move every once in a while,” says Steyer. If she's reading a book or helping one of her kids with a project, she makes sure to get up and move around at regular intervals. “I’ll get up and put dishes in the dishwasher, get another load of laundry going, or just stretch,” she says. 

If you have to sit for hours at a time, Ryan recommends the following exercises to reduce pain and stiffness in your joints: 

Head Rotations Move your head left and then right, which can help prevent stiffness in your spine. 

Chin Tucks While sitting upright and keeping your chest still, dip your chin toward the base of your neck without moving your head too far forward. 

Shoulder Rolls Keeping your chest still and arms by your side, roll your shoulders up, then back, and then down. 

Pelvic Circles While standing, move your pelvis around to the right and then around to the left. 

Back Extensions Place both of your hands on your lower back while standing, and then arch backwards so that you feel an extension in the spine. 

Ryan recommends doing one to two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions of each of the above exercises during regular breaks throughout the day. “Do more if it feels good,” she says, adding that you should do the exercises in pain-free ranges, which means pushing the movement only as far as you can without feeling any pain. 

Remember that psoriatic arthritis can cause permanent joint damage. In addition to managing your pain and stiffness with physical activity, discuss with your doctor whether certain drugs are right for you. 

MARIANNE RYAN PT, OCS is an award-winning author, physical therapist and board-certified orthopedic clinical specialist with more than 30 years’ experience treating prenatal and postpartum women. She is the owner and Clinical Director of Marianne Ryan Physical Therapy in New York City and the creator of the groundbreaking DIY “Baby Bod” program, which is the first of its kind to bridge the gap between medical care and fitness advice. As a leading women’s health expert (and a mom), Marianne is passionate about helping women reclaim their changed bodies, whether they are pregnant, recently took part in the joy of birth or are experiencing the “joy” of menopause. Watch her TEDX video, “What Your Momma Never Told You About Childbirth” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Zyv5Inj_lE&

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