Video Q & A:

Flare-ups

Question:

How should I treat the joint pain from an RA flare?

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

You're coping with a flare, even though you're already on medication. Check out this video to find ways to alleviate your immediate pain.

Transcript: Sometimes, rheumatoid arthritis flares are SO painful that you feel like NOTHING can help. But there are a few things that CAN relieve your pain mid-flare. Let’s start with a simple, but effective technique. Apply a heat or cold pack to sore joints. Use cold packs when the joint is swollen and warm, and apply the heat after the swelling has gone down—it’ll relieve stiffness, soreness and promote blood flow. Next, try unwinding. Go for a massage, practice progressive muscle relaxation or visit an acupuncturist. These techniques, while a bit unusual, may release tension and help you feel better, physically AND emotionally. You should also rest your body. Lie down for a bit….BUT, don’t stay in bed for the entirety of your flare—your joints will get more stiff and painful. Engage in gentle activities such as range-of-motion exercises or swimming. But remember to take breaks every 10 minutes or so. Exercise might SEEM counterintuitive, but you’ll probably find yourself feeling better. You may also try topical creams containing salicylate, capsaicin or menthol. They MAY offer temporary pain relief. Feel free to take PAIN MEDICINE. Even if you’re on DMARDs or biologics, NSAIDs—or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs—will dull your pain and inflammation. You can take over-the-counter ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen. Or, ask your doctor for a stronger prescription version of these, or, for celecoxib, a cox-2 inhibitor. Remember to take NSAIDs on a full stomach because they may cause gastrointestinal problems. And talk to your doctor about the risks to your heart from celecoxib. Your doctor may also be able to administer a corticosteroid injection, such as prednisone. Oral tablets are also available by prescription. Corticosteroids relieve your inflammation more quickly than NSAIDs, but you can’t depend on these because long-term use may decrease bone density and INCREASE joint damage. To learn about drugs that actually SLOW rheumatoid arthritis, check out other videos in this series! More »

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