Rheumatoid arthritis can be an unpredictable condition to say the least. One day you feel amazing, ready to conquer the world. The next day, pain is present and inflammation is recking havoc and now you are bed bound. What can be debilitating and unpredictable is what we call flare ups. Since symptoms vary by patient, it is hard to gauge proper treatment for treating flares. There are debates between doctors and patients on what a flare up really measures and means. Doctors measure flare up by the amount of swollen joints present during a doctors appointment. On the contrary, patients with RA explain flare up in the actual experience of how they feel compared to previous flare up and not in numbers. As a patient with RA the most important thing you should do is listen to your body.
Back in August of 2018, I had the worst flare up to date. I recently came back from a girls trip from Mexico. The moment I stepped foot on the airplane was the moment I felt my body shutting down. First, I had a middle seat. I never get middle seats. Secondly, the seat wouldn’t even recline. My stress levels definitely played a part in this triggering reaction. I started feeling the flare up in my fingers and hands, which were swollen, warm to touch, and red. As someone with RA, when listening to your body you know when these flares start but you never know how far it will go. This time, I didn’t think it would get to the point of me really being bed rest. I thought I would of took a couple days off work to recover and keep it pushing, but my body had other plans for me. I ended up having a full body flare up, where majority of my joints were inflamed and painful, disabling me to move effectively. It was hard for me to move because of how stiff my body was. I couldn’t even roll over in bed without struggling. A week in, I was having systematic problems, where it started to hurt to even breathe. I started waking up from my sleep gagging and choking. My appetite was at its all time low. I ended up losing 30 pounds within 3 weeks, where I was at my freshman year in high school weight. Finally, I told myself this is enough and ended up getting x-rays and CT scan and ended up learning I had a few nodules on my lungs from the severe inflammation from the flare up. Reason it hurt to breathe and move. I was so weak I couldn’t even walk up the stairs without taking a break each step.
I share all this to say, rheumatoid arthritis is not just arthritis, it is a condition that effects the systematic system as well: eyes, skins, major organs, etc. In this fact, it important to understand your body and how flare ups effect you and when to know when its at its worse. Flare ups aren’t the end of the world, but the bounce back can be tough. The process is not pretty but if you incorporate these 3 things in your daily recovery, you will be back up and running in no time.
1. 70/30 Rule
The 70/30 rule means 70% rest and 30% light active movement. Flare ups can be causes of intentional and unexpected circumstances. When I say intentional, I mean a long days of deep cleaning your house now you have over exhausted your joints and your temporarily down. Unexpected flares are triggered in other manners, which can be unknown to that person. Resting and rejuvenating your body is number one to help heal you back to normal. Now finding that balance from rest and movement can be tricky, because you do not want to over rest or over move or your body or your body will be out of wack. So finding the right balance if its 50/50 or 60/40, make sure to incorporate both light active movement like stretching or walking and rest daily.
2. Eat Intentionally
Doctors may say there aren’t enough studies suggesting a certain “diet” will help with inflammation. I believe your overall nutrition plays a huge part in your recovery to remission. It can be hard because you have a professional pushing just drugs and not so much suggesting improving your overall nutrition. You can’t blame them because they went to school to push drugs. So make sure to incorporate majority fruits, vegetables and whole foods in your nutrition. Limit the process, dairies and any foods that causes your flare ups. One thing I do suggest if you do not know what foods trigger your flare ups is for you to track your flare up and food intake in a journal. Your goal here is to get rid of inflammatory foods that wreck havoc on your body overtime. This will allow you to recover in no time.
3. Incorporate Self Care Daily
With rheumatoid arthritis we sometimes fall short of taking care of ourselves when we are down. It can be hard doing the bare minimum. Make it appoint to included at least 2 self care activities into your daily regimen a day. If thats, giving yourself a essential oil massage, practicing yoga or meditation. These relaxing activities will give the peace you need. It can help decrease stress, tension and more. Always listen to your body and never overdue it.
Bouncing back from a major flare up can be hard work. Being intentional about your recovery, by resting, light activity to keep your body moving, eating healthy, and indulging in self care, you will have better chance of recovering faster. Do not give in to the bed. It can be easy when everything else is going wrong. Get up move and keep it pushing, but do not push too hard. The unpredictable nature of this condition is tricky, but overtime, you will learn to really listen to your body and act accordingly.
Gurus, have you had a major flare up that had you bed bound and how did your recovery process work? What things did you incorporate to get back to your normal health?