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Managing Flare-ups and Setbacks

What is a ‘flare-up’ or a ‘setback’?

In its simplest terms, a ‘flare-up’ or ‘setback’ is when your pain might be higher or your ability to do what you want has reduced. These are commonly referred to as 'bad days' and most importantly, they are normal.

Does it mean I’ve gone backwards?

Having good days and bad days is normal in everyday life and the same will be true with your pain.

We all hope that our progress goes in a nice straight line like this:

The reality can sometimes be more like this!

Remember, even if you are having a bad day, as long as overall you are moving forwards with your pain management, slow progress is still progress.

Why do I need to plan for flare-ups?

A bit like planning for a holiday, you need to make sure you’ve got all the things in place to make sure you have a good time; passports, sunscreen, tickets etc. Managing your pain and potential flare-ups is essentially the same. With good planning, you’ll be better equipped and ready to deal with any ‘bumps in the road’ (otherwise known as ‘bad days’). Hopefully, by this stage you have explored our previous information pages and built yourself a plan on how you are going to manage your pain.

One of the last things that might be useful is your setback plan. Often, the reasons why we experience a setback are relatively simple i.e. “I might have done too much”, “I’ve put on some more weight”, “I didn’t pace things like I said I would”. In persistent pain, ‘bad days’ rarely indicate that you’ve done something wrong; instead, it is often that things have just got irritated again. If you experience a ‘bad day’, it can be worrying as you may feel that you’ve gone backwards instead of forwards. However, using your setback plan can help you look at some of the reasons why things might have changed and then work out a way to get over them.

When should I speak to my GP or healthcare professional?

Remember that your healthcare professionals are part of your support team and can help with your self-management. If you have symptoms that are new to you, it is reasonable to discuss them with your healthcare professional. Similarly, if you have had a significant incident like a fall or an accident, it is important to discuss your situation with an appropriate healthcare professional.

If you are experiencing a flare-up of your normal pain or the clinician is satisfied that there are no new concerns, it is important to get back to your self-management plan. Your healthcare professional can help you to revisit your action plan and set appropriate goals.

Setback Plan

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