In this week’s blog we’d like to discuss one of the most dreaded aspects of living with chronic illness: flare-ups. A flare-up is essentially a period of increased illness activity where common symptoms like fatigue, inflammation, and pain are heightened. When it comes to Rheumatoid Arthritis, this often manifests in swelling of the joints as well as pain that makes it difficult to move. Let’s talk more in depth about these flares.
Generally, flares are considered to have two varieties. The first kind is known as a “predictable” flare. These flares have known triggers and usually involve a temporary period where you feel worse, but are eventually resolved on their own. Examples of known triggers are overexertion, lack of sleep, poor sleep quality, stress, or infections such as the flu. The second variety of flares is known as the “unpredictable” kind. These flares have no discernable trigger or cause.
The next question in your mind is most likely: How do I manage or cope with these flares? Aside from self-care measures such as resting and minimizing points of stress in your life, there are various other small things you can do to directly combat some symptoms of a flare-up. Our strong recommendation is to begin doing gentle stretches daily. By stretching, you can keep stiff joints moving while also increasing your range of motion. Next, we recommend wrapping any affected joints for increased support and immobility. After taking these measures, you may also apply heat or cold therapy directly onto the affected area.
That being said, these measures are not by any means a cure-all for flare-ups. In some instances, these actions may not be enough and symptoms may require medical attention. As a result, our final and most important tip to you is to maintain a good relationship with your doctor, so that you can fully understand the specifics of your flare-ups as well as adjust your medication and treatment plan as needed.