How to Deal With Psoriatic Arthritis Pain When You’re at Work

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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Anyone’s muscles can feel a little cramped after an especially tense workday—maybe from being hunched over a laptop, glued to a rigid chair, standing for hours, or even squeezing a stress ball for dear life. But as bad as the average person might feel by the end of the day, for Caitlin West, that soreness starts the second she clocks in. That’s because she lives with psoriatic arthritis (PsA).

“The pain is every day—and some days, it’s what I would call a constant flare-up,” the 35-year-old from Coatesville, Pa., tells SELF. A lot of people with PsA (including West) also have psoriasis, which causes inflamed, itchy skin patches or even scales. Hers is sometimes so sensitive that “even clothing hurts,” she says.

Dealing with these symptoms can make getting through any day difficult, let alone a working one. According to one study, folks with PsA have high levels of unemployment—often because of their pain.1 But as the experts interviewed for this piece all agree, there are ways to manage discomfort—and get the help you need to do your job as comfortably as you possibly can if you have PsA. Here are their top tips.

Follow your treatment plan.

A better day on the job may start with some actions you can take outside of work. That includes trying to make sure you have the right treatment, Aixa Toledo-Garcia, MD, a rheumatologist in Albany, New York, tells SELF. She notes that people with PsA often take disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which help reduce inflammation and pain and stop the condition from getting worse.

Beyond that, a doc might recommend over-the-counter or prescription nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen, to reduce inflammation.

Physical therapy and exercise can also sometimes help with stiffness and pain, Dr. Toledo-Garcia says. As SELF has previously reported, however, finding relief with PsA can be challenging sometimes—and might take some trial and error with various treatments. (Here are a few signs you might need to rethink your current treatment plan.)

Know your rights.

When you’re in pain—from PsA or another condition—you don’t have to just “power through.” You have the legal right to a comfortable working environment, and PsA is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This means that most employers have to offer “reasonable accommodations” to help you do your job, Stephanie Hudgins, program manager of Arthritis@Work, which offers tools for businesses to support their employees with arthritis, tells SELF. This might include ergonomic work equipment, like a wrist rest for your computer keyboard, a special padded mouse, or chair cushions. These items often put less stress on your joints than standard items, Pamela Mehta, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in San Jose, California, tells SELF. You might also ask for a modified work schedule, or extra leave, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

If you want accommodations, request them in writing to your manager, according to the Job Accommodation Network. (Here’s sample language to use.) Say that you have a disability under the ADA, and note what specifically could help. Dr. Toledo-Garcia says you can ask your doctor to write a note, too. Just know, however, that your company could refuse accommodations if they can show that it’s an “undue hardship,” a.k.a. it would be costly for them.


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