Flare Up Toolkit
If you haven’t created a list with your "flare up toolkit" yet, I highly recommend jotting it down somewhere you can refer to easily. When we’re in pain we can often forget what solutions we can opt for to alleviate symptoms, so having a list as a prompt has been a game changer for me. Below are general strategies I use in my pain relief toolkit, I also have symptom specific pain relief strategies that may prompt you when creating your own lists.
Everyone is unique and will respond to treatments and medications in a different way, please note none of this is medical advice, and is solely a list of general strategies I find help me.
Pain relief medications
Each and every person will have different pain relief medications that work for them during a flare up. This is of course the most obvious form of pain relief. Often the medications only dull or reduce the pain, but do not fully alleviate the symptom, or perhaps only for a brief time, and this is why the other forms of pain relief below can compliment these medications. There may also be medications for when specific symptoms flare, for example migraine medication.
Topical pain relief
For pain in certain areas you can use topical forms of pain relief that you apply directly to the skin. These can be particularly useful for relieving for muscle or joint pain, arthritis, sprains/strains/subluxations/dislocations. These range from things like ibuprofen gel to tiger balm, deep freeze/heat, CBD balm etc.
* Always patch test these before using and check the directions for use - most can’t be used for more than 7 days
Heat therapy is often recommended in chronic conditions to relax and loosen tissues and stimulate blood flow to the affected areas. There are many types of heat therapy (that I love to mix and match):
- warm baths (with epsom salts)
- hot water bottle (regular and long)
- electric blankets or heat pads or area specific pads
- microwaveable heat
*Not recommended after activity, where there is swelling, for an acute injury or for extended periods of time. Always check with a medical practitioner if heat is right for your pain
Cold therapy can be super beneficial as a strategy, particularly for migraines, but also for either alternating between heat and cold on flared up muscles, or if it's an injury cold is often recommended. I always find ice packs that are gel based and can be moulded around the area most useful (as opposed to the hard block packs).
Professional massages may be a strategy that also alleviates pain for you but they can also be super expensive, and hard to book a last minute appointment during a flare up.
For the cost of one professional massage, electric massagers are a brilliant replacement. Five years ago I bought the Reviber Zen Physio Deep Tissue Massager which has been a cheaper alternative to the beneficial effects of massage for muscle pain relief. I've also more recently tried this hot and cold massager also from Reviber that included hot and cold therapy with massage which is also a game changer!
Cushions and pillows
Cushions and pillows play a huge role in my flare up (and preventative flare up) toolkit. The two key ones I use are:
This helps alleviate lower back and coccyx pain/inflammation (that occurs due to frequent coccyx or hip subluxations). I can't sit down anywhere without this (unless I want to flare for weeks).
If you have neck issues/subluxations/instability and haven't found the right pillow for you, this can flare symptoms. Equally, sleeping on a different pillow to the one you're used to can also flare up symptoms, this is why I ALWAYS bring it wherever I sleep over, even if it's a little bulky to bring with. Definitely makes a big difference to flare ups keeping my pillow consistent.
For many people who have varying mobility depending on symptoms, one of the first go-to strategies is rest. But long term, this can be super restrictive to daily life and really debilitate routine and ability to do tasks/activities. Many people find mobility aids can help to bring back the freedom to be able to do more during a flare up. I have this foldable walking stick for travelling. Using the mobility aids available on public transport for example the airport mobility service can really help when travelling. Each person will have different mobility aids that are suitable for them, and potentially different aids for different kinds of flares too.
Supports, orthotics & kinaesthetic tape
These are particularly for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome with hypermobile joints that may sublux or dislocate frequently. Joint specific supports can help to keep the joints in place when they are being excessively hypermobile / following a recent dislocation or subluxation. Kinaestethic tape is another method of doing this.
Orthotics can be great for aligning the spine, knees and helping with flat feet, useful in EDS but also are a good general tool to help alleviate further back pain / gait issues. I have a custom made orthotic insole for shoes, but also was recommended birkenstocks as a viable sandal by my podiatrist.
Diet and Nutrition
Now everyone is super different, and so what works for me regarding diet and nutrition will vary from person to person. I am definitely not suggesting that a change in diet will cure chronic illness. However, from my experience, certain diet changes can alleviate symptoms, and vice versa, many foods can trigger symptoms.
I find personally that the following works for me:
- Avoiding foods I'm sensitive or allergic to
- Opting for high protein, plant based, lots of vegetables, low sugar, anti-inflammatory foods
On the button below, you can find all of my quick and easy "spoonie friendly" recipes that are plant based, gluten free and refined sugar free.
What is similar to what you would add? What's different? Creating your own can really help to remind you of the solutions to alleviate pain and symptoms during a flare up (which can definitely be easier said than done when it's happening!)
I hope it helps to provide some solutions during your next flare.