What are the causes of arthritic flare-ups?

Updated February 21, 2017

Arthritic flare-ups occur when arthritis symptoms worsen, causing swollen and painful joints. If left untreated, arthritic flare-ups may lead to permanent damage, according to The Arthritis Society. If you are suffering from frequent arthritic flare-ups, visit your doctor. An adjustment of medication or other treatment methods may be necessary.


Certain foods are thought to trigger arthritic flare ups, notes Denise Lynn Mann in Arthritis Today. She notes studies have found milk to be the most common cause of food-related flare-ups. Other foods such as cereal, pork or cod may also cause flare-ups for individuals with rheumatoid arthritis. Trying a diet of meat, fish, fruit and vegetables may make a difference in your arthritis symptoms, says Dr. Jonathan Brostoff, professor of allergy and environmental health at Kings College London. You can then slowly add eliminated foods back into your diet one at a time to see how your body reacts. Talk to your doctor before making drastic changes to your diet.

Stress and Pregnancy

Stress can cause arthritis to worsen, according to the Arthritis Resource Guide from The Arthritis Society of Canada. Therefore, it is important for arthritis sufferers to find ways to manage their stress. Read a book, talk to a friend or listen to relaxing music to help deal with stress and avoid arthritis flare-ups. Distract yourself from stressful thoughts whenever possible. Use deep breathing techniques to relax.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding may also cause arthritic flare-ups, and require a visit to the doctor for medication adjustment.

Activity and Weather

Too much activity may cause your arthritis to flare up. Take care not to engage in physical activity that will put excess stress on your joints and lead to additional arthritis pain. Changes in the weather, especially cold, rainy weather may also cause arthritic flare-ups.

Dealing With Arthritic Flare-ups

Use at-home self-care strategies to deal with arthritic flare-ups. Use pain medications as prescribed by your doctor when needed. Apply cold compresses to inflamed joints to decrease inflammation. Heat may be used for muscle pain, but should not be applied to inflamed joints, notes the Arthritis Resource Guide. Moderate exercise and rest may help to prevent arthritic flare-ups.

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About the Author

Based in the southeastern United States, Annabelle Brown began writing in 2000. She specializes in health, nutrition, education and pets. Brown holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Virginia Tech and is pursuing a Master of Science in English from Radford University and a Master of Education at Wright State University.