What exactly is a flare-up?

margm Member Posts: 4
edited 28. Nov 2023, 14:11 in Living with arthritis

Arthritis has recently become a real issue in my life. I understand I've had a flare-up - experienced as lower back pain and sciatica. But what exactly does a 'flare-up' mean? What is happening in my lower back and leg?

How long will it last?

Help - I find I understand very little about it all, but it is drastically reducing my daily life choices and activities and enthusiasm. (I am over 70.)


  • Poppyjane
    Poppyjane Moderator Posts: 668

    Hello @margm welcome to the online community,

    You say arthritis has become a real issue in your life and that you experience back pain and sciatica. You are looking for an explanation as to what a flare up actually is ! Well I think you will gain hundreds of different descriptions from our members depending on their life experience. Very few of us go through our journey with arthritis without an episode of pain and fatigue which debilitates us both physically and mentally. There will also be loads of different tips on how to cope.

    We are not qualified to give you a medical explanation but so many of us have shared our flare experiences with the community that I think you will gain both a general and some specific descriptions that will I hope resonate with you.

    I attach some links which provide tips for your back pain

    I will leave your question open to the community to share their experiences with you. We look forward to hearing from you again.

    Best wishes


    If it would be helpful to talk to someone ring the Helpline 0800 5200 520

    Monday - Friday 9.00a.m. - 6.00p.m.

  • margm
    margm Member Posts: 4

    Thank you Poppyjane. Lovely to get a first reply on Versus Arthritis.

    I can date the onset of my flare-up as 5th July 2023, and I'm still struggling with it. I'm certainly keeping going and staying active, but many days the joy has gone out of walking/cycling/gardening etc, which used to give me enjoyment for hours. I weigh under 7 stone, and eat pretty sensibly, take the meds from the doctor etc, but improvement feels very slow. It is beginning to feel worrying....

    I'll keep searching and get familiar with the website,

    Many thanks, margm

  • frogmorton
    frogmorton Member Posts: 29,018

    Have you got OA or an inflammatory type like Rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis?

    I only say this because I think they 'flare' differently.

    The inflammatory types in my own experience also result in extreme exhaustion (being virtually unable to stay awake), a higher than usual temperature and joints that swell, get hot and almost get 'stuck' in position. For me this can happen any time of the day if I stay in one position for too long at it's worst I cannot tolerate even the weight of a sheet on my joints. This means the disease is more active and is likely to be evident in bloods. Not necessarily the Rheumatoid Factor always but certainly inflammatory markers like CRP and extra white blood cells.

    I am less familiar with OA flares although I do now also have OA. They can be to be 'set off' by me overdoing things, but not always.

    My back 'went' finally many years ago, so you absolutely have my sympathy with yours and your sciatic pain. Just awful. I had surgery and it's 'ok' now.

    I have taken some steps to make life more bearable.

    1. I do less of everything. I garden for 1/2 an hour rest and then some more - gone are the days when I was outside until it was so dark i couldn't see! I have 'real' (high) raised beds so bending is less necessary and more paved areas.
    2. I have raised the handlebars on my bike got an E bike and a cushioned seat. I go for shorter rides, but it's still fabulous!
    3. I go for shorter walks and use hiking poles still exhilarating though. My boots are skechers/hotter something like that comfier and I have my own insoles in them I have elastic shoelaces to avoid bending to do them up too.
    4. If l sew or knit again l do less in one go. I still get there, but slower.
    5. I have an arsenal of things to help with pain from prescribed pain killers and anti-inflammatories to my trusty microwavable wheatbags. From ice packs and MSN gel to my tens machine. Some people here swear by capsaicin which is prescription only.

    Best of luck @margm

    Toni x

  • margm
    margm Member Posts: 4

    Thank you so much Toni, for thinking of me, and trying to guide me from your long experience. Luckily for me, I am not in as difficult a situation as you are. I have osteoarthritis ( I think - I'll check this coming week) and the flare-up was absolutely set off by overdoing it on my electric bike. The motor broke, and I had to pedal back to base with no power. Since the bike weighs half my weight, I found it really difficult and painful for my right leg) It is reassuring that you are still doing all the things I enjoy - cycling, walking, gardening, sewing, crocheting (in my case).

    I kind of hope that the 'flare up' will eventually 'flare-down', and I'll still make improvement, albeit maybe not back to where I was. Optimistic? You have to be, don't you!?

    Many thanks,

    Marg x

  • frogmorton
    frogmorton Member Posts: 29,018

    Keep up that Optimism @margm Marg

    It is exactly what you need a positive attitude👍️

    I hope your flare up will also flare down too. Mine usually settle to something more bearable given time and rest.

    Sending you some ((())) from one E-bike user to another 😊

    Toni x