What is a flare up?
When you live with persistent pain, experiencing a flare up (or worsening) of pain is actually much more common than you may think. For many it leads to feelings of frustration or sadness as an increase in pain can make you feel like you’ve taken a step backwards from your progress.
For others it can lead to feelings of fear and anxiety as you can begin to convince yourself you’ve damaged your body or that ‘something must be wrong’. Managing a flare up will be a key piece of your pain management plan.
Why am I having a flare up?
Sometimes the most difficult thing to understand is why you are experiencing a flare up.
The reason for this is because there are many factors that influence pain in itself – you may want to refer to our Explaining your pain section.
Most people will say that their pain has flared up for no reason, and although this is entirely possible, from experience we know that often when we trace our steps, a potential reason for a flare can become apparent.
Questions you may need to consider could be:
- Have there been changes to my sleep pattern?
- Am I under more stress? – work or home?
- Have I changed my activity levels or tried something completely new?
How do I manage a flare up?
There isn’t one recipe to manage a flare up, you need an individual plan designed just for you. Here is some advice on creating your own plan.
The first step comes from your own experiences of living with persistent pain. Try to identify what usually makes you feel better in yourself or what usually helps with your pain, some ideas could be relaxation, gentle stretches, a hot bath or watching your favourite film.
Secondly, understand that it is ok to reduce your activity levels a little when pain is worse, however, we should try our best not to reduce too much or for too long as this can lead to deconditioning and make pain and function worse in the long term.
Another important step is recognising the thoughts and feelings that come with a flare up and managing these as best you can. A calm and reassuring internal conversation can be very helpful. You may want to reassure yourself with messages such as, ‘I haven’t injured myself’, ‘this is just a bump in the road’ and ‘I am in control’. Try writing some encouraging messages that you feel will help you personally.
Finally, reflection on how the flare up may have occurred is also a vital learning experience and may reduce the likelihood of a flare up reoccurring.