If you live with osteoarthritis, you know how painful a flare up can be. It’s like your symptoms have multiplied in intensity. The swollen joints, stiffness, and, most of all, pain, can bring your life to a grinding halt.
That’s why it’s important to have a plan to make it through a flare up. Ibuprofen or aspirin alone aren’t enough, and anything heavier shouldn’t be a go-to prescription for what can unfortunately be a common occurrence. That’s why the best plan involves mental, emotional, and physical preparedness: a holistic treatment that allows you to fight a flare up on many fronts.
Get Into the Right Head Space
Like so much else in life, the biggest key to surviving a flare up is the right mentality. This means a few things. First, it’s critical to keep a positive mindset. When you see the glass as half full, and remind yourself that “this too shall pass,” it makes your predicament feel less overwhelming.
Pain is a terrible sensation. Most of us go to great lengths in order to avoid it. But acceptance of your situation and acknowledging that it is not forever are both very important steps to take. Know that you can and will beat your flare up. Create a positive mantra or “battle cry” that you can mentally repeat to yourself to stay strong and optimistic.
Second, you need put things into perspective. One great way to do this is through meditation. Many people try to entertain themselves with a favorite movie or book, but this often fails. The pain can be distracting. Instead, meditation can be a great de-stressor.
Meditation and relaxation therapy are great ways to recognize that your reaction to your pain is separate and independent from the pain itself. Though you can’t control your pain, you can control how it affects you. This realization can be incredibly empowering and has actually been shown to have a dulling effect on pain.1
Control Your Environment
Speaking of elements we can control during flare ups, a calming environment can make all the difference. This means both situating yourself in a comfortable place where you can relax, and, as much as possible, being around positive people. The first step here is simple: for many of us, a relaxing environment is simply at home, where anything you need isn’t more than a few rooms away.
The second step is to find positive people to surround yourself with. Having an emotional outlet, someone who will listen to you gripe, sympathize with you, or help you perform physical tasks that you can’t, is a great asset to have at your disposal. If you haven’t yet, check out osteoarthritis support groups, which exist online and in-person. Just talking with someone who knows your struggle can be extremely helpful.2
If you’re married or in a relationship, having your spouse read up on and understand osteoarthritis can be helpful too. That way he or she can have a better understanding of just how difficult what you’re going through is, and can play an active role as part of the effort to fight flare ups.
Know When To See The Doctor
Though no one likes to visit the doctor, you need to know when it’s too much for you to handle on your own. If your flare ups are more frequent or painful than they’ve ever been, see your doctor. New treatments like radiofrequency ablations or even surgery may be required.
It’s good to have a plan, but it’s important to also have a plan B. Know when to seek help.