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As with most things, you shouldn’t self-diagnose, but see a qualified healthcare provider instead. With that in mind, there are some common symptoms of joint discomfort associated with arthritis. These include, but are not limited to2:

  • Pain
  • Redness
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Warmth

If you’re living with arthritis, you’ll have noticed there are times when it feels worse. This is known as an arthritis flare and there are different triggers for different types of arthritis3. Although there’s no cure for the disease, managing it through treatment and identifying flares is key to maintaining your quality of life3.

Not taking your medicines

Always take your prescription medicine according to your health provider’s instructions – even if you’re having a “good” day and feel better4. Remember that your medicine can help prevent flare-ups and future problems, such as joint damage4.

Being sedentary

Some people with arthritis may avoid exercise for fear of hurting themselves, but researchers have found that joint pain is more severe in those who don’t exercise5. In addition, you may find you have more trouble doing daily activities like carrying a grocery bag or holding a cup in your hand5. Conversely, it’s been shown that exercise also improves movement and strength in the joints and improves quality of life for those living with arthritis5. If a particular type of exercise causes pain or swelling, stop and rest4. You can always choose a lower impact alternative such as swimming, biking or walking4,5

Eating the wrong foods

Although nutrition isn’t a cure for arthritis, it’s a step in the right direction to take care of your diet6. Being overweight is a major risk factor for wear-and-tear type arthritis, while losing weight reduces the stress on your joints6.It’s recommended that you avoid red meat, dairy, certain oils, salt, sugar, deep-fried food, alcohol and refined carbohydrates6. Following a healthy, well-balanced diet is also known to decrease the risk of heart disease and strokes and increase your wellbeing6,7. There’s lots of conflicting advice about arthritis and diet, so don’t just assume what you eat is worsening or improving your condition – always speak to a qualified healthcare provider before changing your diet6].


Stress can worsen your arthritis symptoms by promoting an inflammatory response – and inflammation is the cause of joint damage in arthritis8. The longer you’re stressed, the worse the inflammation can become8. It’s easy to then get stuck in a vicious cycle of constant pain, fatigue and lack of sleep that exacerbate each other and add to your existing stress8. That’s why it’s vital to get your disease under control by consulting your healthcare provider and complying with treatment to relieve your RA symptoms8. Talking to a therapist may also help you tackle any stressors in a positive way8. And don’t forget about exercise, which releases feel-good endorphins that help relieve depression and anxiety8

How can I feel more in control?

Patients are often advised to track their arthritis flares in a diary3. Mobile tracking apps are also available, but research has shown that not all of them are of a sufficiently high quality9. It’s best to simply note down your symptoms so you pick up any patterns that you can share with your healthcare provider. Together you can then create a plan to minimise flares and boost your quality of life3. Beyond that, it’s a great way to take control of your arthritis and reap the emotional benefits of feeling more in charge of your wellbeing.


1. Arthritis Foundation of South Africa. Staff overview: Conditions. Available here:
2. Cleveland Clinic. Staff overview: Arthritis. Available here:
3. Arthritis Foundation. Staff overview: What triggers an arthritis flare? Available here:
4. NHS. Staff overview: Living with rheumatoid arthritis. Available here:
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Staff overview: Physical Activity Helps Arthritis Pain. Available here:
6. BetterHealth Channel. Staff overview: Arthritis and diet. Available here:
7. Antinoro, L. Can diet improve arthritis symptoms? Available here:
8. Arthritis Foundation. Staff overview. How Stress Affects Arthritis. Available here:
9. Grainger, R., et al. Apps for People With Rheumatoid Arthritis to Monitor Their Disease Activity: A Review of Apps for Best Practice and Quality. JMIR mHealth and uHealth 5(2). 2017