How to prepare for a painful flare-up
While you may have coping strategies in place to help with your chronic day-to-day pain, how prepared are you for a sudden flare-up when your pain becomes even more intense and gets in the way of your usual routine?
Try different treatments
What works for one person may do nothing for another, so experiment with different remedies and therapies to help relieve your symptoms (and remember to consult your doctor before trying anything new).
Remedies that could help include:
- Gentle exercises like tai chi, yoga, walking and stretching
- Spending time in a bubble bath
- Hot water bottles, heat pads or electric blankets for sore joints
- Wrapping up in warm layers and cozy blankets
- Cold packs (or a bag of frozen peas from the freezer)
- A distracting film or activity like doing the crossword
- Relaxing activities like meditation
Plan your meals
Getting the right nutrition and energy when you’re going through a flare-up is important, but chopping vegetables and going grocery shopping are probably the last things you feel like doing when the flare-up happens.
Avoid relying on processed food that comes in packets and avoid skipping meals. How? Make the deep freezer your friend. And if you don’t have a freezer, get one. Cooking big batches of nutritious food and freezing them in containers for days when you can’t handle cooking ensures that you’ll always have something healthy on hand.
Just take note of how long you’re keeping things in your freezer, as the flavor and texture of food can deteriorate after a few months even in the freezer. Label containers with the date as you put them in your freezer and take things out from the bottom so they don’t stay in there too long.
Understand your pain
Keeping track of your pain using a diary and understanding the difference between ‘normal’ pain and a flare-up will help you and your doctor find the right treatments or medication to help you manage your symptoms.
By detailing your diet, exercise, medication, pain, feelings and any alternative treatments in a diary, you may be able to train yourself to spot the early warning signs of a flare-up (so you can get prepared) or figure out what remedies work best for you.
Talk to your boss
Many people worry about taking time off work when a flare-up strikes. Lisa, a rheumatoid arthritis (RA) sufferer and blogger, wasn’t sure if her boss would understand her pain:
“I was working at the time when I was diagnosed and I had no idea how to explain to my boss that I could wake up in extreme pain without warning. People not acquainted with chronic conditions like RA think that pain does not just show up in the body at will – it either comes from injury or some normal illness such as the flu.”
If your flare-ups mean you need to work from home or take a sick leave on short notice, it’s better to prepare your immediate manager in advance, and work out a plan for remote working that works for you.
Brief your family and friends
When a flare-up happens, you may not be the best company in the world. Your loved ones and the people you live with are most likely to see you at your lowest, but it’s important that your flare-ups don’t take a toll on important relationships.
You may feel grouchy, frustrated and not in the mood to communicate with your family. You might have to cancel an appointment and miss out on a birthday party or dinner plans. Or you may need a bit more support, whether it’s practical help or emotional support.
And all that’s OK, but you should try to prepare people ahead of a flare-up as much as possible. Let the kids know that you might need them to help out with the laundry and shopping, and tell your partner that if you do ask for space, it’s nothing personal, and it doesn’t mean they’ve done anything wrong. You can have code words that mean something to you, so your family knows when you could use a hug or just some quiet time.
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