10 Ways to Get Comfortable During a Flare: Tips from the RA Community
When you’re hurting, what makes you feel good? Fuzzy socks? A hot bath? Extra TV? For individuals affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis, a flare can bring on pain, swollen/tender joints, stiffness, and fatigue, leading many patients to seek out new and better ways to find relief. To learn about how our community members manage their RA symptoms, this month, we asked our community, “What do you do to get comfortable during a flare?”.
10 ways to get comfortable during an RA flare
Bring on the pillow
“I got a body pillow...supports every place I need it to.”
“Wedge pillow supports”
“Cover my entire recliner with pillows”
“Prop pillows or blankets in places”
For many RA community members, extra pillows provide much needed support during a flare. Depending on your symptoms, you may find that a pillow between your knees, under your neck, and/or under your arms may help you to get some relief and rest. Especially if you have trouble sleeping, extra pillows can also make you more comfortable, helping you to fall and stay asleep.
“A soak in a hot tub is great…. keeping warm is really important for me.”
“I just bought an electric heat mattress pad. Wish I had gotten one years ago!”
“Moist heat wraps! Work great!”
“Hot baths or showers”
“Heating pad....If I apply heat on the joint, it gives me some relief.”
“Heating pads, heating blanket”
For many community members, the best response to an RA flare is heat- and lots of it. While some therapists will use heat as a part of physiotherapy, many community members have found that a hot bath or shower, heating pad, heated blanket, or hot tub can combat the toughest flare symptoms. For many community members, colder weather can bring on joint pain and even trigger flares, so check out these tips for staying warm and comfortable!
….or Get Cold
“Heat does not help me at all! I use the freeze gels and sprays. Plaster myself with gel and rest...the menthol going through your body is heaven”
“Cold therapy after shower is best”
“I always use an ice pack wrapped in a small towel.”
“I have a pack of frozen peas that I use...they are great as they can wrap around any area that is hurting.”
“Ice packs, always in freezer”
While many community members rely on extra heat to manage a flare, for other patients, cold therapy is the best way to get comfortable. Like heat therapy, cold therapy is a recognized treatment for RA pain1, so if you feel better with a little cold, bring on the ice!
“Diclofenac gel where it hurts”
For some of you, the best way to get comfortable during an RA flare is to rely on your recommended medication regime. For some patients, relief comes from a combination of prescription and non-prescription meds, while other combat a flare with over-the-counter products. In addition to NSAIDs and other forms of pain relief, your healthcare provider may also recommend the use of prescription steroids, which work by reducing inflammation and modifying the effects of the immune system. If you’re experiencing a flare, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about the safest medication options for you.
Enjoy A Massage
“I have a massage chair, that gives me a lot of relief...I really recommend trying the chair a couple of times before buying one.”
For some of you, the best way to get comfortable during a flare is through massage. Some RA patients seek out professional massage, and others rely on at-home massage to get relief. If heat lessens your flare discomfort (see #2), a professional massage with a heated table or hot stones might make for a good splurge during your next flare!
Hop In The Water
“Hot jacuzzi bath with the jets on the sore spots”
“Get in water, pool, tub whatever to take pressure off for a bit.”
“If you have access to a Jacuzzi or a warm pool, these are very helpful...otherwise a hot bath”
“Epsom salt-hot bath soaks”
“Float in my pool, face down with snorkel.”
For many RA patients, water is a great source of RA relief. Whether you take advantage of a pool, bath, or hot tub, the buoyancy of water can provide support to the joints, while also allowing you to float and relax. For some of you, the benefits of relaxing in the tub are also enhanced by adding Epsom salts, which boosts magnesium levels in the body.2
Food and Drinks
“Load up on anti-inflammatory foods”
“Additional fluids, no sugar”
“A cup of calming tea”
“NO CAFFEINE or processed sugars!! I feel like they make my flare-ups worse!”
“For some unknown reason, Kombucha has been a lifesaver.”
For some patients, certain foods or drinks make you more comfortable during a flare. Some community members rely on their favorite comfort food or a calming cup of tea, and others find that avoiding inflammation-prone foods helps you get through a tough flare. During a flare, you may also want to rely on anti-inflammatory foods, such as salmon, kale, green tea, grapes, blueberries, squash, and low-fat yogurt. Especially during the holiday season, maintaining a balanced diet can go a long way in fighting RA symptoms, so be sure to talk to your healthcare provider about the best nutritional options for you.
Joint Support: Braces & Compression
“Sometimes braces for ankles or wrists if really bad.”
“I have a lot of problems with my hands and wrists, so I wear light braces to help stabilize my wrists so I won't overuse them.”
“Compression gloves when my hands, fingers, wrists are hurting”
“I try to immobilize the affected joint as much as possible.”
“Recently purchased some copper compression gloves”
During a flare, many patients rely on increased support through compression socks or gloves, bandages, or braces. This increased support can ease pain, reduce swelling, and prevent over-use of already sensitive joints. While research shows that copper and magnets probably have a placebo-effect (rather than a true therapeutic effect)3,4, many community members also swear by magnetic and/or copper aids, such as copper compression gloves, or magnetic bracelets.
Time For Some Rest!
“I read, rest, and sleep.”
“I curl up into a ball under my covers with my German shepherd beside me, my little kitty on my legs”
“My biggest adjustment is to stop and rest! It was hard when I was still teaching, but now that I'm retired, I can rest my weary bones anytime.”
“Just take it easy. Take meds, and try to sleep.”
“Bed rest...mindless TV and my tablet books. I hate bed days, but I try not to fight them if I need to be in bed”
For many community members, the best way to get through an RA flare is to slow down and rest. As many of you know, RA symptoms can make it difficult to sleep comfortably. However, getting enough sleep can actually reduce pain sensitivity5, making good sleep hygiene critical to RA management. Besides sleeping, many community also shared that just slowing down is the best way to get through a flare. Rest and relaxation can be a powerful tool against an RA flare, especially when stress threatens to worsen your symptoms.
Some Other Ideas….
“Warm fuzzy socks, my crochet, and a good movie”
“Fuzzy slippers... Frankincense on my feet…”
“Paraffin dips for hands”
“Try to have calm times...light an aromatic candle”
“Pray for others...Takes my mind off of myself.”
“Everything!! Candles. Music. Chick flick. Prayer. Sense of humor. And venting to anyone who will listen.”
For many community members, your approach to getting comfortable during a flare is very unique to you. For some of you, herbal supplements and alternative therapies make you feel better. For others, bingeing on TV or enjoying calming music helps you get through your symptoms. No matter how you practice self-care, we encourage you to take care of your mental health, as well as your physical symptoms, and figure out what flare-management strategies work best for you!
Have you gotten the COVID-19 vaccine yet?