Flare up: a period of time where symptoms an individual experiences from a condition or illness are worse in intensity and frequency. Often a sudden or rapid onset, flares may be triggered by certain foods, drinks or environmental factors.
Flare ups can be a symptom in a multitude of chronic health conditions and can be unpredictable in nature, impacting on an individuals life. A flare up of symptoms can last for hours to days and may be hard to get under control.
For me, I experience flare ups in relation to my Endometriosis/Adenomyosis, Interstitial Cystitis and M.E., with each having slightly different symptoms. An Endometriosis/Adenomyosis flare predominantly consists of severe pelvic, swelling and sometimes bleeding, whereas an Interstitial Cystitis flare brings awful burning when I pass urine, non-stop trips to the loo to pee and an inability to drink anything other than water. If it is my M.E. that’s flaring, it brings overwhelming fatigue that makes my body so very heavy, nasty muscle and joint aches and a feeling like my brain is on fire.
I am currently in the midst of a large Endometriosis/Adenomyosis flare. To cope with it (and my other flares), there are a variety of things I do to try and make them more comfortable and manageable – read on to find out more!
1) Take pain relief – if pain is a major part of your flare then it is important that is it kept under control. Take pain relief when you need it and stay on top of it – pain becomes harder to manage when it is of high levels. Pain relief could be in the form of medication, heat or ice. Make sure you always have your form of pain relief handy in case you need to reach for it when you’re out and about.
2) Take the required medication – if your condition requires you to take certain medication when symptoms become more apparent, don’t hesitate! Again, you should make sure you always have any medication you may need handy.
3) Have a lie down – when my M.E. is becoming a problem, it affects my blood pressure, making it low, which can lead to me feeling faint, floaty and gives me a weird headache. The best way to relieve this for me is to lie down, but this can benefit other things. Just by taking the weight of your feet and feeling supported by a your mattress or sofa will instantly help you relax. You can combine this with breathing exercises to help you relax even more. There is no shame in needing to have a lie down – you gotta dowhat is best for you!
4) Make sure you keep eating and drinking – to me, this means two things. One – when pain seems to be my biggest problem, it can make me feel super queasy putting me off my food, and two – if it is my bladder that is not playing ball, then I can find myself avoiding food and drink in case it makes the situation worse. So, I have found it is important to have a never ending supply of water nearby and have plenty of plain foods (e.g. digestive biscuits, toasts) in the house so I can help combat the nausea and bladder symptoms. If water isn’t your thing, then sometimes having a sweeter drink that you like is handy as well to encourage your fluid intake – after my operations I always make sure I have Ribena in the fridge.
5) Sleep! – when I am so exhausted I can barely walk or talk (thank you, M.E.!) a good sleep really helps. As well as restoring your body of all the good things, there is evidence to suggest that sleep is beneficial for chronic pain, memory and reducing inflammation. I sometimes find sleep can be a good “reset” button for my body, and it’s even something I educate my patients about – a good nights sleep really does do the world of good. If you are not able to have a full on sleep when you are flaring, for example at work, a short nap has been shown to provide similar benefits. I’d encourage you to listen to your body – if you need sleep, sleep!
6) Take a bubble bath – having a bath is probably one of my favourite things to do when I’m not well. Sometimes if I have come home from work because I am suffering, I’ll go straight to run a bath when I get home. The hot water is a great form of pain relief – it provides a soothing sensation to the body as well as aiding blood flow and nutrients to the body. If you’re like me, you can add lots of bubble bath as well to make it an even better relaxing experience.
7) Massage – I appreciate that this might not be for everyone, but if it is my stomach, back or limbs that are in pain or aching, there is nothing I like more than those areas being rubbed gently or massaged. Thankfully, I’m a physio who married a physio, so we know massage well! Similar to heat, massaging an effected area increases blood flow and nutrients to that area, aiding healing, and the physical sensation of being touched provides reassuring messages to the brain
8) Do something enjoyable – I find watching a film or reading a book can be helpful in distracting me from the pain whilst waiting for pain relief to kick in.
9) Get some fresh air – sometimes going for a short walk with my husband can help set the world to rights. Whilst it is sometimes the last thing I want to do when I am curled up on the sofa, I feel better for having done it afterwards. A breath of fresh air can help you feel calm, relaxed and I find it reduces any nausea. If you aren’t able to go for a walk, simply opening a window can help get a breeze in.
10) Let someone know how you are feeling – by letting my husband know I am not well just reassures me that someone is aware that I might not be able to do something or go out later.
11) Stay off social media – although I find the online community incredibly supportive, sometimes I find social media in general can be a negative place. For this reason, I’ll often stay off of it when I am flaring because I just want to look after myself.
12) Water, water and more water – I know I’ve already mentioned how I ensure I keep fed and watered above, but this is particularly relevant to my Interstitial Cystitis flares. If you are an individual with Interstitial Cystitis, then you may find like me, if you’re stuck on the toilet because you need a wee every 5 minutes, then drinking plenty of water helps – it flushes out whatever has irritated the bladder and can help reduce frequency.
13) PJs for the win! – if you know me well, then you’ll know how much I love PJs! I find them so comfortable because they are often quite loose fitting and are a breathable material. PJs are my go-to if I am not very well.
14) Rule out other illnesses – because of the symptoms a couple of my health conditions have, I have to check that there isn’t something else going on. For example, my Interstitial Cystitis flares often mirror urine infections, and my M.E. flares can give me fevers. If you have a health condition that has similar effects, then make sure you stay on top of what is a flare and what isn’t.
15) Get some lovin’ – hugs and cuddles have a powerful effect on our brain, as they release happy hormones that make us feel good. If I’ve been having a really bad flare at work, I can’t wait to get home to my husbands arms. Sometimes cuddling up on the sofa whilst watching rubbish TV can be really soothing and instantly make you feel better.
16) Avoid triggers – if you have specific things that you know aggravate your symptoms, it is important to avoid them as best you can. Whilst this isn’t always possible (take my job for example – the physical activity is a big trigger for me!), try and avoid them whilst you are flaring to prevent the situation from getting worse.
Do you have anything you do to help you when you are flaring? Comment below!