Making work work with psoriatic arthritis

Psoriatic arthritis can make having a job hard. Lifestyle changes and talking to the boss might help.

When you go to work, you can't leave your psoriatic arthritis at home. Stiff, aching joints can affect how you do the job. But being open about your condition and making simple changes in how you work can help you focus on your job, not your joints.

Think about talking to your boss

Psoriatic arthritis symptoms might take a toll on how well you do the job. And the condition can cause you to miss work, either because of a symptoms flare or for appointments with health care providers.

You don't have to tell anyone at work that you have psoriatic arthritis. But it might help to talk with your boss. Simple changes in your workplace can help you do your job better and feel better while doing it.

Ready to talk with your boss? Try these ideas:

  • Schedule a meeting at a time that's good for both of you, and practice what you plan to say.
  • Bring a letter from your health care provider or occupational therapist that gives the reasons you might need some changes in your work.
  • Ask for the things you need to do your job. These might include changes in your schedule or job duties or different tools you need.

Feel your best at work

Psoriatic arthritis can affect both small and large joints and cause great tiredness. Try these steps to ease symptoms:

  • Move often. Take a one-minute break every 20 to 30 minutes. Go for a short walk, stretch or just move to ease stiffness. Set alarms to remind you.
  • Wear clothes that feel good. Choose fibers such as silk or cotton that are easy on the skin. Don't wear clothes that feel tight or rub the skin.
  • Choose roomy shoes. Skip tight shoes, high heels and footwear with a narrow toe box. Opt for shoes that don't pinch your feet, even if they're swollen.
  • Reduce stress. Work can cause a lot of stress, which can make psoriatic arthritis symptoms worse. Ask for help when you need it. Take time to relax or meditate daily.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices. A healthy lifestyle can help you feel your best, in general. Try to keep a healthy body weight, exercise regularly and stick to a regular sleep schedule.
  • Change your schedule. Ask your boss about working from home sometimes. Or ask if you can work more on the days you feel well and less on the days that your psoriatic arthritis symptoms flare. Save up paid time off for days when you really need it.

Desk changes

Sitting at a desk, using a keyboard and dialing a phone can be hard when psoriatic arthritis affects the fingers and lower back. Try these simple, joint-friendly changes:

  • Create comfort. If sitting all day is hard, ask for a desk that lets you raise and lower your computer. That way, you can sit or stand. Ask for a keyboard and mouse that are easier on wrists and fingers. Put the computer screen where you can see it without having to tilt your head.
  • Support your back. Use a chair that fits you well. A good chair has lower back support you can move, armrests, and a headrest to support neck and shoulders. The chair should roll and swivel.
  • Sit properly. Sit up and tall with both feet on the ground or on a footrest if your feet don't reach the ground.
  • Use tools that are easy to hold, and keep them nearby. Look for pens with a gel grip pad, scissors with an easy-to-grip rubber handle and electronic staplers. Keep what you need where you can reach it easily. That way you don't have to move oddly to get them.
  • Skip the keyboard. Use a program that types spoken words on your computer, also known as a dictation program.

Changes for physical tasks

Psoriatic arthritis can cause the back, knees, ankles and toes to ache. For jobs that involve lifting or other physical tasks, or standing on hard floors for a long time, here are some tips:

  • Protect joints by building muscles. Strength training the muscles around the knees, ankles and lower back can help to protect the joints from strain and relieve pain.
  • Wear sturdy shoes. Well-padded shoes with plenty of arch support and room in the toes can help when standing all day. Consider a pair of inserts that give more support, also known as orthotic inserts.
  • Use good posture. Stand with a straight back. Don't let your shoulders push up to your ears. This can strain the spine.

If psoriatic arthritis is new to you or if symptoms have gotten worse, talk to your health care provider about your treatment. You might think you're doing all you can to ease your symptoms but still feel like working is hard. In that case, your job might not be a good fit for you.

It might be time to look for a job that fits your needs better. Or talk to your boss about changing your tasks so that you can work well and stay healthy.

March 21, 2023 See more In-depth