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Managing a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis

The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis tend to come and go with no particular pattern. Sometimes flare-ups will have an obvious cause, such as another illness or stress, but usually there’s no obvious trigger. This unpredictability makes it difficult to plan ahead.

It’s tempting to do all your jobs when you’re having a good day, but overdoing things on the good days can be counter-productive, causing a flare-up of symptoms the next day. Pacing yourself is important. Make it clear to your family and friends that not all days are the same. It’s important they realise that activities you enjoy on a good day may be impossible on a bad one.

The effects of any condition can be mental as well as physical, and people with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to experience depression. How you feel mentally can also affect how you feel physically, so if you feel down or depressed it can make your symptoms harder to cope with. Don’t be embarrassed to talk about this with your doctor if you’re feeling low – managing how you feel is as important as managing the physical symptoms.

There are support groups available if you want to meet other people who have rheumatoid arthritis, and you might find that information on pain management helps you to stay positive. Arthritis Research UK have also recently awarded a grant for a study into what support is best for men with rheumatoid arthritis.

Over time you may get better at noticing the early signs of a flare-up. Sometimes a few days rest are all you need, though it’s important to do gentle exercise to help relieve stiffness. Don’t forget that you can take painkillers, and applying hot or cold pads to affected joints may ease pain too. Make sure you don’t apply them directly to the to the skin to avoid injury.

If you’re having regular flare-ups, you should mention this to your doctor. It may be that you need to review your treatment.

For more information, go to www.arthritisresearchuk.org.
Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.