Managing a Pain Flare
Nearly all people with chronic pain have "flares". Flares are short-term increases in one's usual level of pain. These flares may last a few hours or days to many weeks. The reason for the flare may be easy to find, or the reason may never be found. Some causes of flares include the weather, exercise, stress, hormones, lack of sleep, or an injury.
Dealing well with a pain flare means the pain would be less intense and would last a shorter time. Planning ahead of time and sharing this plan with your doctor may help in handling these flares when they occur.
- Decide if this increase in pain is a flare, rather than a new pain. A flare will be pain in the same place and will be the same type of pain as usual, but more severe. There is no need to share each of these with a doctor. If new symptoms of illness such as fever, vomiting, or numbness occur with the flares, these should be reported.
- Keep in mind that pain flares do not last long. When pain worsens, good coping skills will help to avoid the fear and worry that may lead to even more pain.
- Decide what might have caused this flare. Causes of flares may be simple things such as eating certain foods, chewing gum, having poor posture, or having to change daily routines or sleep schedules. Causes may also be more complex and hard to see. Keeping a log may help to learn the cause of a flare, to manage the pain, and to avoid flares in the future.
- Decide if your usual activity level has changed lately. Return to a normal routine to help manage a flare. Pace yourself. Balance activity with rest during the day. Slowly increase what you are doing and take frequent, short breaks. It may help to reduce activity by 25-50% for one to two days and then to return to a known routine. It may also be helpful to increase stretching and walking. Learn and practice those exercises that help the most during a flare.
- Do something pleasant each day to distract from the pain. To watch a movie, listen to music, read a book or to visit with family. All often help distract from the pain.
- Continue to use your medication as ordered.
- Use other, non-drug methods of pain relief. Apply heat or ice, use massage or relaxation exercises may all be helpful.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 03/05/2010
Copyright © 03/05/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5761
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