Imagine this: You wake up feeling fatigued, and as you try to get up, the slight touch of your clothes to your skin makes your body start to throb. You attempt to stand, and the pressure from your weight makes your psoriasis plaques feel as if your skin is being ripped away from your flesh.
If this scenario sounds familiar to you, there’s not much more you want than relief and comfort — and you want it fast. However, the thing with pain brought about by inflammation, caused by a chronic autoimmune illness like psoriasis, is that it doesn’t go away nearly as fast as it arrives.
Psoriasis and pain are not mutually exclusive, but they often exist together. Psoriasis, being an immune-mediated condition, makes your over-active immune system release chemicals that trigger an inflammation reaction in the skin and other organs of the body. This inflammation can cause pain, discomfort, and distress.
People experience sensations of burning, stabbing, throbbing, cramping, stinging, and more. No matter the intensity, pain is still pain, and though it may be inevitable in chronic conditions, how you manage that pain is up to you.
While enduring a flare can be overwhelming, one of the best ways to combat continued pain is by being proactive about getting the relief you need while your prescribed medications reduce your inflammation.
Here are some tips to help soothe your skin, reduce your symptoms, and keep you as comfortable as possible during a psoriasis flare.
Psoriasis inflammation causes the skin to become tight, dry, scaly, and itchy. Sometimes these sensations can make it hard for you to focus on anything, interfere in your day-to-day tasks, and even keep you from enjoying the simple things in life.
The easiest way to find immediate relief is by keeping your skin moisturized and cool. This is where a good moisturizer is key. I highly recommend establishing a moisturizing routine that works with your treatment plan.
To reduce the chance of further skin irritation, the National Psoriasis Foundation recommends finding products that are:
It’s advisable to moisturize throughout the day and as often as needed. Moisturizing within 5 minutes after taking a bath or shower helps lock in moisture.
When you feel the urge to scratch, apply moisturizer instead to prevent cracking and bleeding of your lesion. A bonus tip is to try refrigerating your lotion and cream for an added cooling effect.
While these products will not directly address the systemic inflammation caused by psoriatic disease, they may be effective enough to provide you with some much-needed comfort and relief.
Taking a warm bath can be comforting, allowing your mind, and subsequently your body, to relax. A warm bath in combination with Epsom salt, sea salt, or colloidal oatmeal can soothe skin irritation.
Epsom salt can soften scales of psoriasis plaques while also relieving itch. The magnesium sulfate found in Epsom salt helps reduce the inflammation and promote skin absorption of water which can also help relax sore muscles and joints.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends bathing in warm water for no longer than 15 minutes.
You might not give it much thought, but what you wear can heavily impact your symptoms.
For someone living with psoriasis, the act of getting dressed can affect more than just your style. What you choose to wear can help ease or exacerbate your symptoms during a flare. Comfort over style is a must, especially if you have scaly and painful lesions all over your body.
Being mindful of the kinds of materials you choose to wear can help ease some of the pain. Here are a few things to consider when building a psoriasis-friendly wardrobe.
Avoid clothes that trap heat, make you sweat, and scratch your skin. Instead, choose clothes made of lightweight materials, like cotton, linen, or satin, that allow your skin to breathe.
Avoid clothing with fibers that may tug or pull on your lesions. As a general rule, lean toward natural over synthetic when possible.
Choose loose-fitting clothes and undergarments. Tight clothes that rub against your lesions make them more irritated.
Sunlight helps boost a chemical in your brain called serotonin that can give you more energy and keep you calm, positive, and focused. Natural sunlight is a potent inducer of immunosuppression, and moderate exposure to it can be very healing not only to your skin but also to your entire body.
Keep in mind that, although the sun can be beneficial, it can also be potentially dangerous if not treated with caution. The sun’s UVB rays are most effective at treating psoriasis symptoms because they slow down the rapid rate of skin growth and shedding. The sun is also a natural source of vitamin D, which helps keep the skin healthy.
When soaking up the sun, limit your time outside to 10 minute increments to reduce the risk of damage or sunburn. Avoid being outside during the sun’s peak hours, and apply a broad spectrum sunscreen every 2 hours.
Physical activity can help you maintain a moderate weight and lower your risk of developing other conditions. In addition to reducing inflammation, exercising boosts endorphins, which improve your mood and energy levels.
Exercising does not have to feel like a chore and there are plenty of ways to stay active and still have fun. Pick an activity that you enjoy, go easy, and start slow at first. You can try taking a nice walk around your neighborhood or doing an at-home yoga flow.
Being physically active can also lead you to taking up new hobbies, like attending an exercise class or tending to your flower or vegetable garden.
If you live with psoriasis, you know very well that stress can make your flare-ups worse. Although you can’t always completely avoid stress, there are several ways you can manage it and keep your psoriasis symptoms at bay.
Try to avoid highly charged situations when you can, set your priorities, and do these suggested activities to help you unwind:
Living a life with psoriasis is not easy, but there are steps you can take to live in comfort. The paramount step is to be gentle and kind to yourself — especially when you’re facing a flare.
There will be times when you feel overwhelmed by the changes and challenges, but over time you will adapt to them. Be gentle and be patient because the time will come when the pain eases. Hopefully, that time is soon.
Medically reviewed on May 25, 2022
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