Video Q & A:

Flare-ups

Question:

How can I prevent the pain of rheumatoid arthritis flares?

Expert:   Linda Russell, MD, Hospital for Special Surgery »

Rheumatoid arthritis flares strike arbitrarily, but you can try to avoid at least some of them. Watch this video to learn about the reported triggers.

Transcript: Rheumatoid arthritis flares are crippling. Even if you’re on medication, they still strike occasionally. Here’s what you can do to prevent as many as possible. KNOW YOUR TRIGGERS. Researchers haven’t yet determined EXACTLY what sparks a flare, but psychological stress, too much PHYSICAL activity, smoking, the weather and certain foods--such as cow’s milk, cereal, eggs, codfish and pork—have ALL been reported as possible triggers. Try keeping a daily RECORD of what you do, eat and feel. Then when a flare hits you’ll be able to begin to identify patterns. For example, if you find that flares often follow a stressful day of work, try taking mini-breaks to BROWSE your favorite websites or do DEEP BREATHING exercises. If you find that cold weather contributes to your joint pain, ask your doctor about increasing your medication during the cold months, or have over-the-counter painkillers on hand at all times to DULL joint pain if you’re already at your maximum DMARD dose. Next, START EXERCISING, if you haven’t already. Stretching and flexibility exercises will help maintain joint motion. Aerobic exercise will keep your weight down, which is necessary because excess weight puts too much pressure on your joints, making pain worse. Use weights, machines or elastic bands to strengthen your joints. Stronger muscles will support your joints and cut down on the work they have to do. The less pressure on your joints, the less likely they are to hurt! At the same time, make sure to take breaks, AND to decrease your activity when a flare is coming on. TOO MUCH physical activity may trigger a flare. Finally, try to make your daily life easier. Organize your tasks, take frequent breaks, and try favoring your stronger joints instead of your smaller, weaker ones when you’re doing things around the house. Maintain good posture. Don’t keep your joints in the same position for a long time. Use tools such as gripping aids or cabinet door loops to make chores less difficult. While no tactic is foolproof, you can prevent some RA flares by being aware of potential triggers, exercising and making little changes in your daily life. Watch other videos in this series to get more answers to your rheumatoid arthritis questions! More »

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