10 Ways to Manage a Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare

Health Writer
View as:|
1 of 11
Next
iStock

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease where you can have good days and bad days. When symptoms worsen, these are called flares. If you find yourself struggling through flares, read ahead for tips on what you can do to return to feeling better as soon as possible.


iStock

Talk to your doctor

Treatment of rheumatic disease has changed significantly over the last decade. A generation ago, doctors would sympathetically tell patients to go home and rest during a flare. Today, doctors work toward the goal of treating to remission of your symptoms or at least low-disease activity. Tell your doctor how you are feeling and how often you have been experiencing flares. Getting RA under control can significantly improve outcomes.


iStock

Skip the fried food

When you don’t feel well, it can be easy to want to eat comfort food to help you feel better. However, it is important that you choose wisely. According to the Arthritis Foundation, trans fats are known to trigger systemic inflammation which could worsen the flare. Trans fat can be found in fast foods and other fried products like donuts, crackers, and food made with margarine.


iStock

Eat the good stuff

Reducing inflammation is one of the best ways to control symptoms, prevent structural damage, and return to normal activities, according to an international task force studying RA treatment. Certain foods are known to have anti-inflammatory properties such as dark fruits, vegetables, nuts, and cold-water fish, such as salmon.


iStock

Try to stay as calm as possible

There is absolutely nothing calming about the thought of suddenly not being able to walk or take care of your daily responsibilities. However, from a multitude of studies, we know that stress can cause pain and that pain can cause stress. Try to remember that a flare is temporary and you have tools you can use to help you feel better.


iStock

Ask for help

The complexity and unpredictability of rheumatoid arthritis can make it difficult for your friends and family to know when help is needed. Educating your support system about the potential for bad days in advance can be helpful, that way they can be there if you need them on short notice.


iStock

Try hot and cold packs

Both heat and cold therapy have been shown to reduce pain and stiffness. Applying heat can increase blood flow and reduce stiffness while cold therapy can decrease inflammation. It can be tricky with an arthritis flare because there is often inflammation and joint stiffness. It may be helpful to experiment 20 minutes at a time to determine whether you respond better to heat or cold during a flare.


iStock

Balance rest with activity

Not long ago, arthritis sufferers were advised to only rest during a flare. And while more rest may be needed, the National Arthritis Foundation recommends against spending long periods in bed during a flare. Instead, combine rest with light activity to keep your joints from becoming stiff. Gently stretching your joints through their full range of motion is recommended.


iStock

Know your triggers

Flares can be both predictable and unpredictable. Predictable flares can be the result of overdoing it at work or home or exposing yourself to a stressful circumstance. If there are things you know are not good for you, try your best to keep them to a minimum or follow those situations by an abundance of self-care.


iStock

Put together a flare kit

Having a self-care kit prepared in advance for your next flare may take the sting out of the situation just a little. Include items that you usually would not treat yourself to on a daily basis. Visit here for some ideas of what to include to make your flare a little more tolerable.


iStock

Tune in to your body

In 2014, a task force was assigned to update RA treatment recommendations. Their first recommendation was that the treatment of RA must be based on a shared decision between the patient and rheumatologist. In order to be a productive member of the treatment team, it is important that you take notes on your potential triggers and what treatments make things better or worse. Your input could make all the difference in how your flare is treated.