How to manage arthritis flare-ups.

An arthritis flare-up can occur at any time.  Flare-ups can surprise you and often, you may feel alone facing them. You do not always need to see your rheumatologist to manage flare-ups.  We have some suggestion that will help decrease the pain and symptoms in the comfort of your own home.

First, you should be able to differentiate arthritis flare-up and morning stiffness because the treatment will be different.  If you are getting out of bed and you fell like a robot, without pain but with some difficulties to start your day, you can apply some warmth on your joints to increase their flexibility.  A bath, a warm shower or a ‘’magic bag’’ apply locally can help minimize stiffness. 

 

But, when pain arrives without warning, without any trigger such as stopping your treatment or a change in your habits (exercise with more intensity, stress, bad sleep, etc.), there are some things you can do before calling the clinic.

 

If you’ve been prescribed some anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) to take when needed, you can take the maximal dose recommended by your rheumatologist.  If you do not have any NSAID prescribed, you can take some ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) if there is no contraindication with your health condition.  Validate with your pharmacist if this product suits you and what the maximal daily dose you can take is.

 

You also can add some acetaminophen even if you are taking NSAIDs. The maximal dose for a day is 3000 mg (3g).  Acetaminophen and NSAIDs will work together to relieve the articular pain quickly and effectively.

 

Ice can also be an ally in the fight against this arthritic flare-up. You just have to apply it on the painful or swollen joint for at least 30 minutes, three to four times a day.  Be sure to put a humid piece of fabric (a towel for example) between your skin and the ice to prevent burns.  You need to be careful with the smaller joints like the fingers or the toes.  You can listen to the web capsule about when and how to safely use ice.

 

If after three days the pain increases or stays the same even if you tried all those tips, call your rheumatologist so he can be advised of your health status. He will either call you back to ask you what is happening or he will ask to see you earlier and give you an appointment.

If your efforts have succeeded in breaking the painful flare-up, take note of that event: what caused it, what you did and how many times it occurred.  This will help your rheumatologist figure out if changed need to be made to your treatment.

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© 2016 Institut de Rhumatologie de Montréal

révision Septembre 2018.

L'IRM remercie Abbvie, Amgen, Lilly, Merck, Novartis, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi et UCB pour leur support.

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