Everyone’s experience of pain flares is different, and everyone will approach their recovery from flares differently.

I think of recovering from a flare in four main parts. 

  • Firstly, I need to be able to cope day to day with the pain I’m experiencing during the flare (and for me particularly during the night). 
  • Secondly, I need to reduce the increased pain levels, and get back to a ‘normal’ pain state, as quickly as possible.
  • Thirdly, I need to ensure my mental health doesn’t overly suffer, and I regain ‘resilience’ as quickly as possible.
  • Fourthly, looking forward, I need to revisit my work commitments, my social commitments and my pain management strategies so that I avoid getting into a flare situation again for a while. 

I don’t pretend to be an expert on recovering from flares. However, based on my personal experience, I suggest the following tips for recovering from a flare, which I hope may be useful.

My top twenty tips for recovering from a pain flare

  1. Recognise this is a flare.  Flares can sometimes have a habit of creeping up on you. 
  2. Briefly reflect on what might have contributed to the flare (it might help you to avoid others in the future). Remember there are usually a number of causes contributing, and may include factors such as: physical triggers, emotions, sleep, weather, inflammation etc. Sometimes you won’t be able to work out a cause, and that’s fine.
  3. Don’t over-analyse what might have caused your flare. This isn’t helpful. If you can’t quickly tell what might have contributed to it then move on.
  4. Don’t blame yourself for getting into a flare. This isn’t helpful either, you just need to move forward.
  5. Don’t panic or catastrophise.  It is easy to think the worst when in a flare.  At the same time don’t ignore anything you think is different and wrong.  If you are concerned about your condition, then seek advice from your GP or other involved clinicians. 
  6. Tell your family and friends you are in flare and talk with them about how best they can support you, without removing your independence.
  7. Give yourself space to recover.  Look at ways to reduce any work or social commitments you have.  (Don’t reduce them all though otherwise you risk becoming isolated which won’t help).
  8. Be particularly careful about ‘pacing’.  Your ‘pain sensitivity dial’ is likely turned up.  Reduce as many ‘triggers’ to your pain as you can.  Put in as many pain-management techniques as you can.
  9. Remember what you have been taught by your physiotherapist, pain clinic, or other professional about how to manage a flare situation.  If you have written a flare ‘plan’ then find it and read it.  Now is the time to put everything you have learnt into practice, even though now may feel like the time it is going to be the hardest.
  10. Consider whether increased use of medications may help for a short while.  Think about which medications may be particularly helpful.  (Make sure you have discussed with your GP or other clinicians though!)
  11. Do what you can to ensure you can sleep reasonably well.  This may not be easy!
  12. Make sure you talk to others about how your flare is affecting you. This is particularly important if you think you are, or might be, becoming depressed.
  13. Consider reading blogs written by others with similar difficulties and consider connecting with groups on social media. Find the ‘right’ support for you.
  14. Look after your emotional and mental well-being.  Be kind to yourself.  Access family and friend support.  Make space and time for going out to places you enjoy and doing things that make you feel relaxed and happy.
  15. Maintain as much independence as you can (eg dressing, getting food shopping), but don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Understand and accept temporary limitations. 
  16. Maintain as much physical movement as you can, without aggravating your condition
  17. You may need to pause more strenuous exercise, such as going to the gym, swimming, cycling etc, depending on how you are affected. This might include physiotherapy exercises too. Restart as soon as you feel able. (You may need to seek professional advice as to what you should and shouldn’t do.)
  18. Look forward.  Accept you are going through a temporary ‘blip’ but focus on your life beyond that.  Where might you go for a holiday?  Who might you like to go and visit?  What book might you like to read next?  Find things you want to do and start doing them.
  19. As you recover, take time to think about changes you might need to make to your life to help you stay out of a flare situation for longer. Do you need to try to change your work pattern to reduce the risk of flare ups?  Do you need to review your use of medications?  Can you improve your sleep?  Is there an activity, for example swimming or walking, you could start doing regularly to improve your overall health? Do you need to take advice about any financial difficulties?
  20. And finally, at any point in your flare up, do make sure you seek professional help if you feel you need to.  This may be from your physiotherapist, your GP, or a range of other clinicians or professionals.

A PDF of my twenty tips for recovering from a pain flare can be accessed by clicking HERE.

As always, I am very interested to hear any thoughts and comments on this post, including any further suggestions for recovery tips.

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Tags: , Last modified: 06/10/2020

2 Comments

  1. Bernadette Johnson says:

    this is really good. The only thing I would emphasise is to not to try to look for a reason for the flare up- unless there is an obvious one. My flare ups are unpredictable and I find it hard not to look for reasons.
    Moreover friends and family nearly always want reasons which puts pressure on. They go – ‘ but you were all right before so it must be this or that you did ‘ and sometimes it just isn’t .

    However if the flare up is obvious then acknowledge it as being a trade off. I walked the Camino in April 113 km. I was scared and at the end really bad but I was chuffed that I did it even though brought on pain – I was able to rationalise it a bit.

    I think your work is really good

    • Tina says:

      Thank you Bernadette.

      Yes, I agree, I sometimes have to accept a flare as a trade-off for something I have really wanted to do as well. Sounds like the Camino walk you did was an amazing experience!

      I’ve tried to incorporate your thoughts into the amended version of the tips for recovering from a flare up, which can be found HERE Thank you – really grateful for your thoughts.

      I’ve also picked up on your thoughts about family and friends, and when I have time I’ll see if I can write something similar to the top 20 tips, but for family and friends.

      Thank you again

      Tina