Whether you’re a pro athlete or a serious amateur, psoriatic arthritis can test your commitment to sports. Joe Reynolds II of Columbus, Ohio, thought he had his psoriatic under control. He put new symptoms such as fatigue and knee pain on the back burner even as he struggled to drum up the energy to play sand volleyball, a sport he passionately enjoyed.
“I noticed when I turned 25 that I had problems with fatigue,” says Reynolds, now 27. He was struggling to stay fit and competitive.
As he was reading up on psoriasis for his work with the National Psoriasis Foundation where he is an active volunteer and advocate, he began to realize his symptoms pointed toward psoriasis arthritis.
“While I had my psoriasis under control, the arthritis was starting to do some damage,” Reynolds says. For him, this realization both explained and underscored one of his recent dilemmas: how to stay active despite his symptoms.
In high school he played basketball and football, but he gave up both in his twenties. Instead, he prefers to play sand volleyball in a league or, when the weather got in the way of outdoor activities, compete with friends in active gaming on a Wii or Kinect game system.
“I just want to stay physically active,” he says. “I think if you stay active and keep your joints in motion you’ll feel better.”
Sand volleyball provides him with the chance to move his whole body, be social, and compete at a comfortable level. And the sand reduces the impact on his feet and joints, he points out.
Ways to Protect Your Joint and Bone Health
Reynolds also knows that his rheumatologist is a key player in helping him fight the effect of psoriatic arthritis. Medical management is crucial for anyone who has psoriatic arthritis and hopes to remain athletic.
“Inflammatory arthritis outcomes have dramatically improved,” says rheumatologist Atul Deodhar, MD, medical director of the rheumatology clinic at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. In the past 15 years, increasingly aggressive pharmaceutical treatments have become available, and they essentially put psoriatic patients into remission, says Dr. Deodhar. As a result of more effective treatments, rheumatologists now rarely see cases of arthritis mutilans, the most severe deforming version of the disease.
Deodhar explains that once medications successfully control symptoms, most people can continue to participate in the sport of their choice, as long as they take care of any joints or bones that have already been affected. Also, any injury during sports play shouldn’t be any worse than it would be for someone without the disease.
However, Deodhar warned that you are more likely to feel pain where tendons join with bone. “This is the most likely problem for weekend warriors and athletes,” he says. This can be easily managed with advice from your doctor. Getting good shoes that fit well and provide support, a strategy Reynolds has adopted, will help protect your tendons and joints.
Whether you’re interested in staying competitive in sand volleyball or golf or any other activity, you’ll do better if you can maintain a consistent, healthy lifestyle; get enough sleep; eat healthfully; and include varied exercise programs (with physical therapy as needed) to strengthen all joints and muscles in your body. It’s also important to remember that some of the powerful drugs used to control psoriatic can slightly increase the risk of infection, making it all the more important to maintain your overall health as you train and compete.