Living with rheumatoid arthritis can be challenging every day. Some deal with pain on a daily basis, experiencing only “one to two good days a week,” while others experience pain more sporadically. Whatever an individual’s experience with RA is, there is one thing most have in common: Flares. Flares are unpredictable and often unrelenting. We asked you, the community, what helps you get through a flare? We received great feedback, and although these tips may not work for everyone, they may be of some assistance!
Changing the temperature
“Plenty of rest, funny movies, foods I love, and hot baths!”
Every individual with RA, and their symptoms, are unique. Some respond better to cold, others hot. Many of you said ice or cold packs get you through a flare. Others said heating pads and hot baths with Epsom salts, lavender bath salts, or essential oils work wonders. Finding out what works best for you, and sticking with it, may provide much-needed relief. Some of you even pointed to therapy pools or massages as being helpful, which can also be tailored to your temperature needs.
Keep busy… and moving!
“If my hands are stiff/stuck, they will not get better unless they are moving. Even if it means just clicking around on Facebook! Just gotta make sure the affected joints remain somewhat active without overdoing it.”
“Movement is key, sitting always makes me lock up and makes it worse.”
“Even when I’m in pain with my arms, hands and fingers, I find the pain is worse when I don’t use those joints than when I do”
For many people living with RA, the idea of moving or getting physical activity may be something to scoff at. However, moving can be as simple as working on a small project or clicking a few buttons on a computer, and can be as advanced as taking on yoga or a brief workout at the gym. Only you know what you are truly capable of and what works. Many of you pointed to painting, cross stitching, stretching, surfing Facebook, or physical therapy as great ways to keep moving. And if moving isn’t in the cards for you during your flare, staying mentally busy can be just as helpful. Some community members suggest watching a favorite show or silly movie can provide relief in the form of a distraction or a mood booster. Although your flare may seem dismal, laughter may be a great treatment.
Treat yourself and practice self-care
“Don’t put any expectations on yourself except to get through it, if you can help it”
“There were days I didn’t even get dressed and was in my pjs all day. Forgot housework and just laid around or sat in a chair.”
Although many of you said moving or staying busy can be key, there may be times when neither of those are viable during a flare. It’s times like these where it’s important to remember to listen to your body, and take care of yourself, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Getting as much rest as possible, eating clean, and taking a day for yourself can make a world of difference according to some of our community members. Your healthcare provider may also be able to prescribe (or point you to) pain relievers, sleep aids, or other medications for your flare, so keeping an open line of communication with them can help you figure out exactly what your body needs. Taking the time you need to rest, hydrate, and recharge can make all the difference.
Have a system, both for yourself, and for support
“I have a flare routine which helps but each flare routine has to be tweaked differently as no two episodes are alike.”
“My family and support system knows not to expect a lot from me as there is little energy to function”
Having a routine in place that generally works well, even though it may need to be adjusted depending on each individual flare, may help relieve symptoms efficiently. Knowing what your body has responded to in the past can be a great place to start for a current flare. Also, having a support system who knows what you need during a flare, even if it’s to be left completely alone, can alleviate any added stress. Whether spending time with people makes you feel better, or retreating away is what you need, having people in your life who understand that you’re having difficulty can provide for a smoother path towards relief.
Whether these tips work for you, or are the complete opposite of what you find to be helpful, let us know! Flares can be incredibly unpredictable and challenging to handle, but bonding together as a community can lead to discovery and support!