Mark N. Perlmutter, MS, MD
How to Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare-ups?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease caused by an overactive immune system that mistakenly attacks tissues and joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis, which affects more than 1.3 million Americans.
Patients with RA experience periods when the disease worsens beyond normal day-to-day variations. These periods of worsening are called flares or rheumatoid arthritis flare-ups. Usually, flare-up starts with a gradual worsening of symptoms and ends with a gradual decrease in the severity of symptoms. An RA flare may last for weeks or months, depending on how quickly you get it treated.
Here is a list of factors that may contribute to aggravating RA, resulting in an increased risk of a flare-up:
Nonadherent to treatment and therapy
Smoking and alcohol consumption
How to Prevent Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare-ups?
Compliance with your treatment and medications
Failing to adhere to your treatment plan like not filling your prescription, not taking your medications as directed, as well as foregoing exercise, and skipping appointments can easily trigger flare-ups.
Once your healthcare provider has established a treatment regimen for you, try to stick with the plan. Don't skip your medications or other treatments. Use a pillbox, calendar, or alarm to help stay on track.
Practice eating the right food
It is possible that certain foods such as food that are high in sugar, saturated fats, trans fats, omega-6 fatty acids, MSG, gluten, aspartame, and alcohol trigger problems.
It might be different for each person, so if you are able to figure out what's making your symptoms worse, you can avoid problems by not eating them.
Stress can be a culprit too. When you are stressed out, your body produces more stress hormones, which may trigger RA symptoms as well. Look for ways to ease your mind. For instance, exercise releases "feel-good" hormones called endorphins. Meditation and yoga can also help in reducing stress, thus reducing the flares.
Improve your mobility
Exercise or moving your joints can not only help maintain your strength, flexibility, and range of motion but also can help you keep your joints healthy. On the other hand, it is important not to overdo yourself. You can trigger a flare if you push yourself too hard. Try alternating short periods of activity with rest (even though you don’t feel tired), instead of pushing the limits without a break.
Get enough sleep
Getting a decent amount of sleep is important, as you need more rest and recovery time than someone who does not have arthritis. When you sleep, your muscles repair themselves. Disturbed sleep seems to increase pain and the risk of flare-ups.
Protect your joints
While exercising and mobility are important, it is also important not to stress your joints. Overexertion of your body and joints can cause RA to flare up. You can try using assistive devices to make your daily life easier and to reduce the stress on your joints, for example, jar openers, cane, elbow or knee pads, shower seats, raised toilet seats, etc.
Of course, smoking is bad on all levels, and RA patients who smoke, have high disease activity and increased inflammation, which means more swollen and tender joints, joint pain, and more frequent disease flare-ups. The more active your disease, the more likely you will experience joint damage or disability. RA patients are encouraged to quit smoking and if you have a hard time quitting, then consult your doctor for smoking cessation.
Because the symptoms differ from person to person, doctors have had trouble agreeing on a standard definition to guide them in treating flares. Living with arthritis can be overwhelming, but committing yourself to managing rheumatoid arthritis, or any arthritis for that matter, can help you lead an active and healthy life.
Even though there is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, following these strategies can significantly reduce your flares. Get in touch with your orthopedic specialist or a rheumatologist to manage your arthritis better.
Carolina Regional Orthopaedics
Carolina Regional Orthopaedics provides the most effective, modern, and innovative techniques in both Orthopedic Surgery and Pain Management using proven methodologies in both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of all conditions affecting the spine, upper extremities, and lower extremities. We specialize in hand and wrist surgery, joint replacements, sports medicine, trauma care, pediatric orthopedics, pain management, wound care, regenerative medicine, physical therapy, imaging services, and EMG testing.