What causes arthritis flare ups? For many of us, the holidays bring forth lively gatherings and cheerful celebration among those we love most. With getting the perfect gifts, traveling & packed schedules comes a lot of bustle, and often results in health routines getting shoved onto the back burner of our list of priorities. While it might be tempting to push off health matters until the new year rolls around the corner, if you suffer from arthritis, you know how taxing a flare up can be, let alone with a vast agenda. In the midst of arthritis flare ups, aches and pains tend to take precedence over what we value most, and cloud our ability to enjoy the day. But, what causes arthritis flare ups? One of the best ways to tackle the holidays with the daunting symptoms of arthritis is to avoid what causes arthritis flare ups in the first place. Enjoy the best of both worlds- the holidays and great health, by utilizing these 4 tips and avoiding a flare up.

1. Keep Stress Levels Low

The relationship between arthritis and stress, though often unrealized, tends to be a continuous cycle. Stress has the ability to contribute to worsening arthritis symptoms as it can result in tighter muscles, higher blood pressure, or a depressed state. 3   Conversely, the experience of aches & pains, higher medical builds, or dependency on others has the ability to contribute to higher stress levels. 3   The experience of stress is ultimately meant to serve us in turbulent situations, as it alters our physiological state. When we become stressed, chemicals are released into our bloodstream that allows our bodies to prepare for a taxing event. 3 In order to avoid stress causing a negative impact on the body, it needs to be released. Or, we can do our best to avoid becoming stressed in the first place.   Stay stress free this holiday season by spacing out shopping for gifts. When you are shopping for various individuals in a short amount of time, it can result in even busier schedules and take a toll on the mental state. You can also try shopping online this holiday season is to as it is relatively seamless, and eliminates the trip to packed shopping centers or stores.

2. Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep

Making sure that you get enough sleep goes hand in hand with reducing stress. A relationship has been noted between a lack of sleep and high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, depression, and even obesity.1 During the holidays, it can be difficult to find the time for work, family, friends, shopping, and company events. Making more time for events and carving into time to sleep seems to be a common way to cope with a packed holiday schedule.   You may want to think twice about cutting into your designated sleep schedule as getting enough restful sleep is actually linked to a decrease in arthritis pain as well as the ability to cope with it. 4 Consider the following methods for getting better sleep:
  • Meditation prior to getting into bed.
  • Avoiding coffee or other caffeinated drinks later in the evening.4
  • Avoiding utilization of technology an hour before sleep, such as TV, phone, or tablet4
  • Trying not to get into bed until you are ready to actually sleep, as opposed to reading or laying in bed beforehand.4

3. Avoid Inflammation Causing Foods to Avoid What Causes Arthritis Flare Ups

It can be tempting to indulge in holiday dinners and treats without second thought. Generally, the holidays are one of the least health conscious time frames when it comes to diet. With festive dinners, we all just tell ourselves we’ll join the gym for our New Year resolution. If you suffer from arthritis, you may not realize that diet actually has the ability to worsen symptoms. Some foods have the tendency to cause or worsen inflammation, such as: sugar, alcohol, refined carbohydrates, and MSG. 2 Moderating holiday deserts and drinks can difficult as they tend to be everywhere we turn throughout November and December. However, it could be one of the distinguishing factors that determine how we feel.  

4. Stay Active to Avoid What Causes Arthritis Flare Ups

It seems exercising is the last remedy possible when your body is being bogged down by achy joints. Though it might be counter intuitive, staying active has the ability to offer relief to arthritis pain. 5 There are a variety of activities that are safe for your joints, and also have the ability to promote your mood and a better quality of life. 5 Swimming is a great way to work out all of your muscles without putting pressure on your joints. You can also try going on daily walks, yoga, palates, and lifting weights. This holiday season, make time to exercise on a daily basis. You can even combine tasks, and take a brisk walk to the store to get some holiday shopping done!
References American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, apa.org/research/action/sleep-deprivation.aspx. “8 Food Ingredients That Can Cause Inflammation.” arthritis.org, www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/foods-to-avoid-limit/food-ingredients-and-inflammation-11.php. Eustice, Carol. “The Role Stress Plays on Coping With Your Arthritis.” Verywell Health, Verywellhealth, verywellhealth.com/the-effect-of-stress-on-arthritis-188163. “Osteoarthritis and Sleep.” arthritis.org, www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/comorbidities/sleep-insomnia/osteoarthritis-and-sleep.php. “Physical Activity for Arthritis | CDC.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/arthritis/basics/physical-activity-overview.html.

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