Managing Psoriasis (for Runners)

Let’s take a look at how psoriasis is affected by exercise, and how you can get maximum benefit without causing yourself pain and risking flare-ups.

Managing Psoriasis (for Runners) | Ready Set Run Co

I remember the day someone noticed.

I was in seventh grade. There was a bully who criticized literally everything I did. He lived to mock my every move, word, fashion choice. Honestly I could learn that this guy had spent the past 15 years curing sick children and I’d probably still hate him. But he was not the sharpest tool in the shed, so I’m highly doubting it. Anyway, one day, he made the observation I had been dreading.

“Emily’s elbows are dirty! Emily, why do your elbows always look dirty?”

I honestly didn’t know. He was right. But obviously I didn’t have dirt caked on my elbows. I had no idea why they looked rough and gray-brown all the time. I hated it.

As I got older, my “dirty elbows” would often flare up into intensely itchy raised red patches that would extend up my forearm and cause me months of discomfort before hardening back up into the ugly gray-brown mess. It became more obvious that what I was dealing with was psoriasis. It showed up on my knees, too, and started to act up along my hairline at the back of my neck. It got worse and worse until I was 25 and started taking better care of myself. I ate a healthy, balanced whole food diet and started running, martial arts, and yoga. Within a year, all symptoms were gone. My elbows were just as cute as the rest of me. And the skin on them was smooth and peachy and happy.

If only that were the end of the story! No, there is no cure for psoriasis. Healthy living helps manage it, for sure. But it still flares up for me from time to time. I consider myself lucky that it only covers a few small patches of my body, and often goes into complete remission. I know a lot of people have it much worse and it seriously interferes with their lives. So let’s talk about how to deal with it, specifically from the point of view of a runner.

Learn more about managing psoriasis and other skin conditions while running with our FREE ebook, The Ultimate Skincare guide for Runners.

How does running affect psoriasis?

This is a surprisingly complicated question! There are a lot of factors at play when you start running a lot, and the net result depends on all of them.

The big thing to remember is that exercise in general is very beneficial for psoriasis sufferers, but there are still risk factors that need to be mitigated. Psoriasis is strongly linked to obesity, so any habits that help bring you to a healthy body weight are likely to result in an improvement of symptoms. Exercise also reduces stress, which can help manage flare-ups. Brief sun exposure of the affected skin also seems to help somewhat, so donning some shorts and running a mile on a nice day can be good for your rash. There are some problems, though.

Chafing and friction of any kind can worsen or cause a psoriasis rash. This means you will need to be very careful with clothing choices and make sure that nothing is rubbing the wrong way as you add distance and time to your runs. Use anti-chafing lubricants or powders if necessary to manage this.

Sunburn, even a very slight burn, can seriously aggravate psoriasis. No sunscreen blocks the sun 100%, so rest assured that even through sunscreen, you are getting the benefits of sun exposure for psoriasis. Use it before every run or outdoor workout to ensure the sun does not damage your skin and trigger a flare-up (or, you know, cause skin cancer).

What if it hurts to run?

I know, psoriasis rash can be very painful, especially if it’s on your feet when you’re trying to run. Psoriatic arthritis, an inflammation of the joints that occurs in roughly 1 in 4 cases of psoriasis, can also discourage you from exercising. Remember that exercise will improve both rashes and joint pain. Be gentle with yourself and decrease distance or stick to walking if that’s all you can manage some weeks. Or consider going from a swim instead. Stick to your doctor’s treatment advice and do your best to stay active.

After your run

To relieve any rash pain after working out, you’ll want to get all the sweat and dirt off of your skin. Have a cool or lukewarm shower or bath immediately, and apply a creamy, soothing moisturizer. Our Rest Day Soy Recovery Crème is amazing for psoriasis! I apply it daily even when I’m not itchy to keep flare-ups at bay.

Rest Day Soy Recovery Crème

Learn more about managing psoriasis and other skin conditions while running with our FREE ebook, The Ultimate Skincare guide for Runners.

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