Managing a Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare: A Quick Guide
Updated: Jun 8
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease that causes pain in the joints and body. Symptoms and signs occur during a flare-up or exacerbation. Symptom severity can vary from mild to severe and can change from day to day. Periods of increased or heightened symptom activity (i.e., flares) can alternate with periods of remission.
What Causes a Flare?
In the words of Joseph Shanahan, MD, “The first thing I ask when a patient presents with a flare is whether they have been taking their medication as prescribed.” Many different things can cause a flare, but an RA flare could be related to tapering or stopping treatments. Other common triggers are:
Managing a Flare
RA flares can put you at a greater risk for joint damage, cardiovascular disease, and poorer long-term outcomes, so it’s important to try to avoid a flare (by identifying triggers) or seek treatment for a flare quickly. Not all flares need medical treatment. Keeping your healthcare provider in the loop is a great way to navigate how and when a flare needs serious medical attention.
Certain home remedies and lifestyle modifications can not only improve your quality of life, but also help manage a flare. Here are some practical tips:
Low-impact exercise to improve range of motion and mobility in joints
Gentle yoga for regaining strength and flexibility
Sufficient sleep will reduce inflammation, pain, and fatigue
Hot or cold compresses to reduce inflammation and help with soreness
Splints or braces to hold joints in a resting position will reduce inflammation
Being aware of how your body feels and learning how to properly manage a flare is the best way to limit the damage it can cause. Understanding what triggers and causes your flares comes with practice and experience, but it can certainly help with flare management. Keeping track of your flares in the Aila Health app or a notebook or journal is a great way to identify what might be triggering your worsening symptoms.
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Article written by: Shannon Sims, PhD
About the Author
Shannon Sims, PhD, is an integrative wellness coach and mind-body specialist with Aila Health where she focuses on supporting Long Covid and other chronic illness warriors in their journey to greater wellness. Dr. Sims is also a professor at Saybrook University’s College of Integrative Medicine and Health Sciences in the Department of Mind-Body Medicine.
Arthritis Foundation (2021, April 27). What triggers an arthritis flare? https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-pain/pain-relief-solutions/what-triggers-an-arthritis-flare
Healthline (2021, April 27). Everything you want to know about rheumatoid arthritis. https://www.healthline.com/health/rheumatoid-arthritis
Mayo Clinic (2021, April 28). Rheumatoid arthritis. https://www.mayoclinic.org