Even when your arthritis is well-controlled, it’s still possible to have a flare-up. Arthritis symptoms will get temporarily worse after a time of being less severe. When you experience a flare-up, a joint or joints may swell or become more swollen; you may even feel more pain and stiffness, especially in the morning; then your body may feel more fatigued. When you have all these things happening at the same time, the flare-up is considered more serious. There are ways to deal with your flare-ups, here are three steps you may want to take to help yourself when you have an arthritis flare-up.
Step 1: Recognizing what is happening, when it’s happening.
The first step to managing a flare is to first recognize when you are having one. If you can identify that you are having a flare-up then it becomes easier to start managing it. Being aware of your body and how it feels and learning to pay attention to how arthritis affects your body makes it easier to see if there are any changes, then you will be able to recognize it. When you realize there has been a change, admit it, don’t go into denial and hope that everything will just get better on its own. It doesn’t.
Step 2: Find the reason for the flare-up
Once you’ve recognized that you are having a flare-up, the next thing and the important thing is to find out why it happened. In most cases flare-ups have no cause and are just part of the natural cycle of arthritis, but sometimes they do have triggers. Managing the symptoms of the flare-up may be controlled by what you think the cause is. By recognizing what stresses there are in your life, you may be able to change them and then you’ll be able to lessen the severity of the flare-ups or at best prevent future ones from happening. This information can be very helpful for you and your doctor.
There are other possible triggers for your flare-ups, those being, not taking you medications the way your doctor prescribed, overdoing activities and not getting enough rest, over using certain joints, or experiencing a general worsening of your conditions. Some people think that the weather can trigger their flare-ups. Here are some of those triggers.
Medicine: A flare-up can occur when you are not taking your medicine the way your doctor has prescribed. Some people are afraid of the side effects and try to reduce the amount they are taking or they will even stop taking the medicine all together, even when they are still experiencing symptoms. There are others who will start to feel better and will either stop taking their medicine or forget to take it. Either way not taking your medicines will have serious affects, such as increasing the risk of permanent damage to the joints.
Overdoing it: Overdoing some of your activities and becoming too fatigue, can also bring on a flare-up. On the days that I was feeling really good, I would try to cram everything I could into those few hours I knew I had before I would start to hurt and be totally exhausted. I would always end up paying for it for the next few days. That’s why it’s important to have a clear idea of what is too much for your body to handle. While exercise and activity are very important, it is also important to balance them with rest and avoiding tiredness as much as possible is a key part of your arthritis treatment. It took me nearly five years before I was able to figure out how to pace myself whenever I did an activity. I also have to pick and choose what I will do based on how long I am going to be down after I do it.
Over using your joints: When you overuse one of your joints, you can cause your arthritis to flare-up. And believe it or not there are many ways to overuse a joint or joints. If you have arthritis of the hands, doing an activity that is too hard on your hands, such as hammering, opening up a jar, or even washing all your homes windows in one day, can trigger a flare-up in the hands. If you have arthritis in your knees, you might have flare-ups if you are on your knees for any length of time. In both of these cases, the swelling may occur any time from soon after the activity to a few days later. When there is swelling in a joint, you will want to look back to see what it was you were doing before the swelling started.
Other triggers: As mentioned earlier in this article, stress can contribute to flare-ups; in addition, some people find that certain weather conditions, such as humidity, can cause increased joint pain. The weather itself isn’t what causes the joint pain to be worse but it can make the joint discomfort more obvious. Finally, a flare-up could be a sign that your condition is getting worse. If you have a flare-up that just won’t go away, contact your doctor and see if there is a more effective treatment he can put you on.
Step 3: Fighting the flare-up.
The third and final step to managing your flare-ups is the action you take to relieve the pain and inflammation. The following are known to be effective. Do a medicine check. If you haven’t been taking your medicine as prescribed, it might be a good idea to get back on track. If you stopped taking your medicine because you think it is causing unwanted side effects, contact your doctor and he should be able to make changes in your medicine. If you are having trouble paying for your medication, your doctor should be able to help you find another way to pay for them or prescribe a less expensive medication. With the growing numbers of people unable to pay for their medications, many of the drug companies have programs that will greatly reduce the cost and if you qualify, you may be able to get them for free. Whatever your reasons were for stopping, it’s best to not let it continue for too much longer. Getting back on a regular schedule with your medications will cause the arthritis to respond once again and calm down. Check in with your doctor. You should have already worked out with your doctor, what is the best way to stay in touch in case you should have a flare-up. Some doctors, especially if you are newly diagnosed, prefer that you come in to see them, while others prefer you use emails or the phone. To treat your flare-ups the doctor may change the dose of your medicine, give you a new medicine or advise you on different techniques to reduce your symptoms. You and your doctor can also work out a plan for changing or adding medicines or making other changes to your program that you can do at home before checking in with your doctor. I talk to my doctors all the time and I was given the go ahead to take more than two Tramadol if I need to when my pain is over the top.
Using cold or warmth: If you have one or two joints flare-up, putting ice packs or running cool water over them a few times a day can help reduce the pain and swelling. There are some people who can’t tolerate the cold and prefer warm moisture instead. Hot packs, heating pads, paraffin wax baths, warm tub baths, showers, or warm-water pools can all help the joints to feel better. I have used the hot wax baths and I feel that this has helped in keeping my finger joints from becoming twisted and enlarged. My pain and swelling seem to get worse no matter whether I use hot or cold treatments.
Resting your body: During a flare-up, getting plenty of rest will help the medicines you are taking do their job. Doctors usually recommend a good night’s sleep, at least eight hours, and additional rest in the afternoon, if possible. During the past 12 years of having arthritis, I hardly ever got eight hours of sleep and on those nights when I didn’t sleep or my sleep was intermittent my pain levels are out of this world. My doctor prescribed medication to help keep me asleep and now I hardly ever have pain. Alternating rest and work is another good plan, as long as you stop working before you get too tired. You might want to think of a flare-up as a good time to just be good to yourself and do nothing until you are sure your flare-up has passed.
Resting your joints: Always be careful to not overuse a swollen joint, avoiding aggressive or repetitive activities. This would include some exercises. It would be best to suspend any strenuous exercise routines during an arthritis flare-up. When the swelling has subsided you could continue your exercise program and normal activities.
Doing range-of-motion exercises: Although, you should sustain from strenuous exercise during a flare-up, you should do light range-of-motion exercises. When you do range-of-motion exercises you are putting your joints through its normal range of motion, without stretching or forcing it. You should not force swollen joints to bend too much and you should stop when you experience a lot of pain. You need to make sure the joint stays as flexible as possible during a flare-up because this will help to preserve the joints range of motion and prevent long-term stiffness.
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