How Psoriasis can interfere with Exercise
Starting (and maintaining) an exercise routine can be difficult for anybody, but it can be especially challenging when you live with itchy, irritated, and sensitive skin. From aesthetic issues to more deep-seated discomfort, exercise can aggravate your psoriasis in a number of ways:
The Koebner Phenomenon
Small scrapes and scratches are normal when you exercise frequently (especially if you enjoy sports), but these little skin irritations can lead to big problems when you suffer from psoriasis.
Cuts, scrapes, and bruises can cause a response known as the Koebner phenomenon, where new psoriasis plaques form at the site of the injury. These new eruptions affect up to half of all psoriasis sufferers, and the most susceptible patients will develop a new lesion every time their skin is injured.
Psoriasis plaques are easily irritated by rubbing, and friction can also trigger a psoriasis flare. During high intensity exercise or repetitive movements, the areas of your body where skin touches skin will tend to rub against each other painfully – under the breasts, abdominal folds, inner thighs and the groin.
When your skin is already sensitive or irritated, this can lead to inflammation, or even breaking and bleeding.
Psoriatic Arthritis Flares
Psoriasis discomfort is often skin deep, but not always. If you’re one of the unlucky 25% who also suffer from psoriatic arthritis, you might find that too much exercise worsens your joint pain and inflammation. However, exercise has been shown to increase mobility and decrease swelling in the long term, so it’s important to find a way to balance some regular activity with your psoriatic arthritis symptoms.
If you’re hesitant to parade around in short sleeves and gym shorts, you’re certainly not alone. For many people, psoriasis strikes the arms and legs most often, and unsightly red spots or raised, flaky patches can keep you inside and inactive.
Studies suggest that a less than ideal body image can sometimes motivate people to exercise, but those who feel embarrassed and unhappy with their body are less likely to exercise in public. In turn, it can be difficult to stick with a fitness routine when your psoriasis is flaring up.