You’ve been managing your arthritis symptoms well and doing all the right things to stay healthy, but one day you wake up and feel like it was all for naught. Your joints ache like crazy , the worst you can remember in a long time.

Is your arthritis getting worse despite all your efforts? Are you going to feel like this from now on?

Probably not. Although arthritis is a chronic disease, you can have acute episodes of pain and inflammation, known as flares. While troublesome and unpredictable, flares are temporary. They do not signal a failure in your efforts to control arthritis symptoms.

Flares may be seen after infections or after highly stressful situations. Often, however, it isn’t clear what triggers a flare. You may have long periods of time when your arthritis is quiet, or in remission. Then, suddenly, the inflammation becomes more active and you have an arthritis flare.

Flares can be alarming, not only because of the pain, but because of their unpredictability. You may feel discouraged or afraid of further damage to your joints. You sometimes wonder whether something you did may have caused the flare.

What can you do to combat these feelings? Remember that you have a range of tools in your arsenal to address pain, from asking your doctor to increase your pain medications, to applying cold packs or practicing deep breathing techniques.

Also, remember that flares do calm down. You may want to think about how you handle the inevitable “bad days” and flares before you experience them. Just as regular fire drills help people deal with real emergencies, preparing for a flare can help you jump into action when it happens.

Discuss a plan of action with your doctor. One possible approach would be to adjust your medications temporarily while the disease is unusually active. This will not only relieve some of the pain associated with a flare; it will also help minimize any damage that may occur from unchecked inflammation.