For 30% of people with psoriasis, the autoimmune issues that define the disease will eventually turn inward. As well as affecting the skin, causing it to develop the trademark red and scaly plaques, the autoimmune disorder can also attack the soft tissues in the joints, leading to psoriatic arthritis. While there is no cure for the condition, there are a variety of treatment options available. Is a soak in a spa pool one of them?
As it turns out, yes it is. When used as a complementary therapy, the warm water immersion, hydrotherapy and aquacise offered by Hot Spring spa pools and swim spas can be an incredibly effective way to treat psoriatic arthritis, reducing pain, regaining function and even leaving you in a better mental state.
How does a spa pool do all that? To find out, let’s take a closer look at the ins and outs of psoriatic arthritis: what it is, how it is treated, and the role that a soak in a spa pool might play.
What is psoriatic arthritis?
Psoriatic arthritis is a form of arthritis that exclusively affects those who suffer from psoriasis, presenting in three out of every 10 psoriasis sufferers over the course of their lives. In both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues. This abnormal autoimmune response causes an overproduction of skin cells in the case of psoriasis, and joint inflammation in the case of psoriatic arthritis.
The resulting swelling is most commonly seen in the fingers and toes, though it can occur in any joint. Joint pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms, and can range from mild to disabling, though the latter usually occurs if a severe case is left untreated.
As with psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis is a volatile disease. ‘Flare-ups’ are interspersed with periods of remission and relief, though generally speaking both conditions tend to get worse over time. This makes the early diagnosis and treatment of psoriatic arthritis particularly important if a patient is to maintain a good quality of life.
How do you slow down psoriatic arthritis?
No cure yet exists for psoriatic arthritis, so treatment options are focused on minimising pain, controlling symptoms and preventing joint damage. Most treatments target the underlying inflammation of joint tissues, aiming to reduce or control it. A number of medications can be used to this end, including:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories
- Disease-modifying antirheumatics
- Biological response modifiers
- Phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors
But this drug-led therapy is most effective when complemented with physical therapies that help to ensure joint movement and function is maintained. The focus of these treatments is to provide low impact and low pain exercise, which is where the warm water hydrotherapy offered by spa pools and swim spas can prove to be an effective treatment option.
Can I go in a hot tub if I have psoriasis?
Many people with psoriasis choose to avoid swimming or soaking in water treated with chlorine, as the chemical can exacerbate the condition by further drying out skin. By choosing the FreshWater® Salt System from Hot Spring, which uses pharmaceutical grade salt to naturally generate chlorine to sanitise spa water to be in its softest, gentlest and most luxurious form, almost like drinking water, you’ll avoid the discomfort of traditional chlorine, and may be able to enjoy a therapeutic swim or soak for as long as you like, as regularly as you like. If you have psoriasis and have a history of chlorine discomfort, the best way forward is to book a test soak at your local Hot Spring dealer, to see whether our gentle water care systems work for you.
How can a spa pool help psoriatic arthritis?
We know what psoriatic arthritis is, we know that physical therapy can form an effective complement to medication in treating the condition, and we know how to make a hot tub safe for a psoriasis sufferer to soak in. There’s just one question left to ask: how exactly can a spa pool help to treat psoriatic arthritis?
The effects of warm water immersion and physical therapy in helping psoriatic arthritis are well documented:
- The buoyancy of the water takes weight off of muscles and joints, and the warmth opens blood vessels and increases blood flow, allowing for freer movement.
- The low-impact exercise that spa pools and swim spas enable has been shown to increase mobility, reduce pain, and enhance quality of life.
- Increased physical capacity can then lead to a range of psychological and social improvements.
This 2013 study found that the “positive effects of hydrotherapy were experienced on physical function, energy, sleep, cognitive function, ability to work and participation in daily life” in people with psoriatic arthritis.
For sufferers of psoriatic arthritis, the benefits of a spa pool soak are both extensive and well documented. While it’s a lifelong and potentially serious affliction, it’s perhaps comforting to know that one way it can be managed is by enjoying a long, bubbling and perfectly relaxing spa pool soak.