Grandmother and granddaughter baking during the holiday season

The holiday season is just around the corner, which often means an increase in activities, travel, and stress. This is a wonderful time of year to spend with loved ones, but unfortunately, unexpected side effects often occur among arthritis sufferers.

Arthritis pain at this time may become so severe that individuals don’t even feel like participating in all the fun and festive activities. Fortunately, there are certain arthritis flare up triggers that can be avoided and measures that can be taken to manage the pain during this time of the year.

Here is some information about why an arthritis flare up occurs, arthritis flare up foods, and tips for managing flare ups during the holiday season.

What Is an Arthritis Flare Up?

Arthritis pain often comes and goes over time, and an arthritis flare up is an episode of severe pain.1 Flares can last just a few days and be treated easily, last longer than a week and require reduced activity, or last several weeks and require more serious treatment options. Flare ups can be mild, moderate, or severe and are triggered by many of the things people experience during the holiday season.

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Arthritis Flare Up Foods

Food is a big part of celebrating holidays, but certain foods can actually make arthritis symptoms worse. In particular, foods that can cause inflammation also tend to cause flare ups and should be avoided.2,3 The list of arthritis flare up foods includes sugar, fatty meats, dairy, and gluten. It is also a good idea to limit one’s intake of coffee, soda, alcohol, salt, and processed foods as much as possible to prevent flare ups.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Flare Up Triggers

In addition to certain foods, there are other triggers that can bring on rheumatoid arthritis pain around the holidays. The cold weather that many people experience during the holiday season is a trigger for RA.4,5 Other rheumatoid arthritis flare up triggers are stress from cooking and shopping obligations, fatigue from not getting enough sleep, and illnesses caused by common winter sicknesses.6 Increased travel around the holidays, whether by car or plane, can also lead to increased stiffness of the joints.

How to Manage Arthritis Flare Up Pain

The best way to prevent an arthritis flare up is to avoid the aforementioned triggers, but of course, this is not always possible. It is important for everyone to reduce stress levels during the holidays, but especially for arthritis sufferers whose symptoms are made worse by stress. Self-care techniques, such as getting a massage or taking a warm bath, can go a long way in preventing stress-related flare ups.7,8

JointFlex may be used topically to relieve joint pain quickly and without a prescription. Make sure to bring a tube along to holiday events in case an arthritis flare up begins unexpectedly. People with arthritis must remember to take their medications during the busy holiday season and not forget doses due to schedule changes. Cool packs can be used to reduce inflammation of the joints, while warm packs can soothe persistent joint pain at family gatherings.9 Other ways to manage flare up pain at holiday events is to take stretching breaks between long periods of sitting, use a brace or cane during walking activities, and take time to rest when needed.6

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1. Freeman, G. Arthritis flares are normal but still difficult. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved November 2, 2018 from
2. DeVries, C. (2016 November 4). In the kitchen with arthritis: Foods to avoiding. Arthritis Health. Retrieved November 2, 2018 from
3. Eight food ingredients that can cause inflammation. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved November 2, 2018 from
4. Your local weather. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved November 2, 2018 from
5. Watson, S. Understanding RA flares. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved November 2, 2018 from
6. How to beat arthritis fatigue. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved November 2, 2018 from
7. Warm water works wonders on pain. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved November 1, 2018 from
8. Bernstein, S. Types of massages. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved November 1, 2018 from
9. Foltz-Gray, D. Fight arthritis pain without pills. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved November 2, 2018 from