Giving Care: Senior & Disabled Caregiver Resource Blog

What Causes Arthritis Flare-Ups?

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Symptoms of arthritis often come and go, resulting in flare-ups. Signs of an arthritis flare-up include joint pain, fatigue, fever, swelling, stiffing, tenderness, warmth, redness and weakness. Arthritis flare-ups are often caused by external factors, and working to identify what triggers your flare-ups over time can help you manage them in the future. In this quick guide, we’ll cover eight factors that could potentially be causing your arthritis flare-ups. Doing research on behalf of a loved one with arthritis? Check out our list of the best gifts for people with arthritis, including arthritis clothing from Silverts that makes dressing and undressing easier.

Over-Exertion

Having an active lifestyle is important for promoting physical and mental health, and living a completely sedentary lifestyle can make arthritis symptoms worse. However, over-exerting yourself is also a common cause of arthritis flare-ups. If you engage in prolonged physical activity without taking breaks and giving yourself time to rest or recover, then you might experience a flare-up. Some people also find that activities that require repetitive motions can put stress on their joints and cause an arthritis flare-up.

Weather

Many people with arthritis find that changes in the weather — particularly cold or rainy weather — worsen their arthritis symptoms. There are a couple different theories for this. One is that the cold causes the fluid in your joints to thicken, making them feel stiff. Another theory is that barometric pressure changes in the atmosphere cause body tissue to expand and contract, making arthritis pain worse. Some people also become more sedentary during bad weather, which can worsen arthritis as well.

Food and Drink

Certain foods and drinks cause inflammation in the body, which can contribute to arthritis symptoms. Some beverages to watch out for include alcohol, caffeine and sodas. Foods to be careful with include red meats, processed meats, fried foods, prepackaged foods and refined carbohydrates. Eating and drinking these only in moderation can help reduce overall inflammation and potentially reduce the risks of an arthritis flare-up.

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Stress

Stress causes inflammation in the body and can worsen many different medical conditions, including arthritis. Not only does stress cause your body to release hormones that can trigger inflammation and pain, but stress also increases your perceptions of pain. If you have been experiencing an arthritis flare-up and none of the other factors seem to apply, consider whether or not you’ve been under an undue amount of stress lately.

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Lack of Sleep

Your body repairs itself while you sleep, so getting enough zzz’s is important for managing your arthritis symptoms. While an arthritis flare-up can keep you up at night, not getting enough sleep can also worsen your arthritis symptoms, creating a negative cycle. Be sure that you are following good sleep habits such as getting away from screens at least an hour before bed and waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day.

Smoking

Smoking is one of the worst things for your health. Not only does it damage your lungs and heart, but it also causes inflammation all over the body, which worsens arthritis and many other health conditions. Even if you don’t normally smoke, indulging in the occasional cigarette or cigar might be contributing to your arthritis flare-ups. Exposure to secondhand smoke can also cause inflammation even if you’re not the one directly smoking.

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Injury or Trauma

Injury or trauma to your joints can cause arthritis flare-ups, so if you’re recently fallen or sustained a sprain, that might explain why your arthritis symptoms have become worse. Injuries (especially dislocations and fractures) can also cause arthritis to spontaneously manifest in a condition known as post-traumatic arthritis, which usually subsides in a few months after people recover.

Medical Conditions

Various infections, including those in the cold and flu family, can cause or worsen arthritis symptoms. That’s because these infections wear down your immune system and weaken your body while causing inflammation. Infectious arthritis, also called septic arthritis, occurs when an infection (typically staph) moves from one part of your body into the joints. Some people also develop poststreptococcal reactive arthritis after having strep throat. Other health conditions that can worsen arthritis include bone spurs, autoimmune diseases, psoriasis and diabetes.

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