Making work, work with psoriatic arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis can pose challenges in the workplace. Cope with lifestyle changes, adaptations and a chat with your boss.
When you head to work each day, you can't leave your psoriatic arthritis at home. Stiff, aching joints can affect your workplace performance. But open communication and simple adaptations can allow you to focus on your job — not your joints.
Consider talking to your supervisor
Research shows that psoriatic arthritis leads to more missed workdays. And when you are at work, psoriatic arthritis symptoms may take a toll on your productivity and quality of life.
While you're not required to tell anyone at work that you have psoriatic arthritis, you may find it helpful to talk with your supervisor. Simple changes in your workplace can help you be present and productive each day.
Ready to talk with your supervisor? Consider these ideas to start the conversation:
- Schedule a meeting at a time that's not stressful for either of you.
- Prepare and rehearse what you want to say.
- Plan some strategies to help you do and feel your best at work, such as changes in your schedule, responsibilities or desk setup.
Feel your best at work
Psoriatic arthritis can affect both small and large joints and cause significant fatigue. Ease symptoms with these daily actions:
- Take frequent breaks. Take a one-minute break every 20 minutes and a five-minute break every hour. Go for a short walk, stretch or just get moving to ease stiffness.
- Wear comfortable clothing. Even professional clothing can feel good. Choose fabrics, such as silk or cotton, that are gentle on your skin. Avoid anything that feels tight or rubs.
- Choose roomy shoes. Skip tight shoes, high heels and those with a narrow toe box. Opt for shoes that don't pinch your feet, even if they're swollen.
- Reduce stress. Work can be a major stressor, but it can also worsen psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis symptoms. Try to stay organized at work, ask for help when you need it, and take time to relax or meditate daily.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. A healthy lifestyle can help you feel your best, in general. Aim to maintain a healthy body weight, exercise regularly and stick to a regular sleep schedule.
- Adjust your schedule. If you have the option, consider talking to your manager about occasionally working from home. Or, adjust your schedule to work more on days you feel well, and less on days that your psoriatic arthritis symptoms flare.
Desk job adaptations
Sitting at a desk, typing and dialing the phone can be challenging if psoriatic arthritis affects your fingers and lower back. Try these simple, joint-friendly changes for your desk:
- Create a comfortable workstation. Request an ergonomic keyboard and mouse that are easier on your wrist and finger joints. Position your monitor about 20 inches directly in front of you.
- Use a footrest. Keep a small stool under your desk to prop up swollen, aching feet.
- Support your back. Choose a chair that fits you well. Opt for one with adjustable lower back support, armrests and a headrest to support your neck and shoulders.
- Sit properly. Sit up straight and tall; don't slouch.
- Use easy-grip supplies. Pens with a gel grip pad, scissors with an easy-to-grip rubber handle and electronic staplers are all simple, inexpensive tools.
- Skip typing. Invest in a dictation program that types your spoken words on your computer.
Physical labor adaptations
Your back, knees, ankles and toes might ache from psoriatic arthritis. So if you have a job that requires lifting or other physical labor, or standing on hard floors for long periods:
- Protect your joints with stronger muscles. Strength training the muscles around your knees, ankles and lower back can help to protect your joints from strain and relieve pain.
- Wear sturdy shoes. Well-cushioned shoes with plenty of arch support and room in the toes can help when you're on your feet all day. Consider a pair of orthotic inserts for more support.
- Stand with good posture. Stand with your back straight. But don't push your shoulders back too far, as this can strain your spine.
If you've just developed psoriatic arthritis or your symptoms have worsened, talk with your doctor about what treatment plan is best for you. If you're doing everything you can to ease your symptoms but still feel like you're struggling with your condition at work, consider whether your job is a good fit for you. It might be time to look for a job that fits your needs better. Or, talk to your supervisor about changing your responsibilities so that you can be successful, productive and healthy on the job.
Jan. 04, 2018
See more In-depth
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- Kawalec P, et al. Disease activity, quality of life and indirect costs of psoriatic arthritis in Poland. Rheumatology International. 2016;36:1223.
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