What to Do When You First Feel a Psoriatic Arthritis Flare
Last updated: June 2023
A psoriatic arthritis flare can stop you in your tracks. The pain can often be too much for people to continue their normal days. To get through it, most people have to find the tips and tricks that work best for them.
Managing the first signs of a PsA flare
To find out more from our community about what has been most effective during flares, we reached out on the Psoriatic-Arthritis.com Facebook page. We asked, “When you sense a flare coming, what is the first thing you do?”
Almost 90 people in the community answered. Here is what they shared:
Slow down and lie down
Many community members shared that how they handle a flare depends on its severity. If the flare is not hugely overwhelming, some people simply slow down a bit. However, if the flare is bad, most stop everything to rest, knowing that pushing themselves can only make it worse.
“I cry, curl up on the couch, and just try not to move.”
“Try to slow down a bit if I can.”
“Stop. Drop. What I mean by that is when I wake up with ‘that look’ in my eyes, (red, sunken, puffy), I know what is coming. So I cancel my day, which is the ‘stop.’ (Yep! The world will revolve without me.) Then I get back in bed for a long rest, which is the ‘drop.’”
Stay prepared for the worst
One of the hardest parts of living with psoriatic arthritis is that flares can strike at any time, without much warning. Those who have lived with PsA for a while have learned to stay vigilant and always be ready for a flare. Moreover, they have learned not to underestimate a flare’s ability to be debilitating.
“Prepare me for feeling like crap for however long it lasts.”
“I am prepared all of the time for a flare.”
Gather in advance what you might need
One piece of advice several community members shared was to keep on hand any medicine you may need. People also suggested always having access to whatever will help keep you comfortable while you rest. This could be cozy blankets, books, or ready-made healthy meals. A couple of community members also carry their prescriptions with them at all times, since they never know when a flare could strike.
“Good books and plenty of easy-to-prepare foods on hand.”
“The only thing I can do is make sure my purse is stocked with pain meds (both prescription and a topical rub).”
“Make sure my prednisone supply is stocked.”
Monitor food choices
Through trial and error, many community members have found that eating as healthy as possible can help decrease the amount of time that a flare lasts. Some have found in particular that simple carbs leave them feeling tired for longer, so they avoid them during flares.
“Cut simple carbs as all they do is zap my energy.”
“I do a quick shop for healthy food and come back home and rest.”
“I focus on jam-packing as much nutrition as possible into meals.”
Get some movement that is not hard on the joints
For some community members, exercise helps. Movement helps blood flow and can help speed body healing. Exercises that are gentle on the body, like swimming and light yoga, can work best.
“Exercise in a pool. Preferably a salt pool.”
“Reducing impact on joints while still maintaining physical activity."
Let a friend or partner know how to be supportive
When possible, it helps to have support. A spouse or friend can be helpful, especially if you have talked to them about your psoriatic arthritis and what you need. The more you are able to share with your supportive friend or loved one, the better equipped they will be to show up for you.
“My husband will make sure I am doing the right thing. Plus, he will immediately haul my stubborn butt to the doctor’s if things are not right or have been going on too long to have tested and require additional management. More importantly, he knows what not to do, such as not guilting me during flares for 'lack of productivity or 'being lazy,' or offering useless advice like ‘suck it up’ or ‘mind over matter.’”
“I tell my husband so he can be supportive.”
You may experience some, all, or none of these in your own experience. Always consult your rheumatologist and/or dermatologist if you believe you’re having a psoriatic arthritis flare-up.
We want to say thank you to everyone who shared what works for them. We hope that your shared experience helps make life a bit easier for others in the community.
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