Arthritis Flare-Ups: What Causes Them, What are the Symptoms & How to Find Relief

If you are living with arthritis, you might notice that some days are better than others. Arthritis flare-ups are periods of time when your symptoms get worse.

Learn more about arthritis flare-ups, what triggers them, and how to find relief.

Person on white shirt experiencing arthritis pain

What is an Arthritis Flare-Up?

An arthritis flare-up is a period of time with a sudden increase in joint symptoms. During a flare-up, you may have worsened pain, stiffness, or swelling of the joints that may last for one to two days, or even a week or more.

Arthritis Flare-Up Symptoms

Common joint symptoms of an arthritis flare-up include:

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

If you have certain types of arthritis, you may have other symptoms in addition to joint symptoms during a flare-up.

  • Fatigue and fever can occur during flare-ups of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Swollen fingers, swollen toes, skin rash, and fatigue can occur with flare-ups of psoriatic arthritis.

Causes and Triggers of Arthritis Flare-Ups

Weather Changes

People living with arthritis often say they feel like their joints predict the weather. Some people with arthritis notice their symptoms worsen on days with cold temperatures, rain, and low atmospheric pressure.


Repetitive motions while playing a sport or at your job can lead to arthritis from over-exertion. If you move a certain part of your body over and over again, arthritis symptoms like joint pain or tenderness can develop or worsen.


Some people’s arthritis symptoms are triggered by eating certain foods that may cause inflammation. Some common arthritis food triggers may include:1,2,3

  • Red meat
  • Processed meat
  • Dairy
  • Excessive salt
  • Sweets and added sugar
  • Saturated fat and cholesterol


It is best to limit or skip alcoholic beverages if you have arthritis. Drinking alcohol can trigger arthritis symptoms.4


Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but constant stress can cause changes in the body, like inflammation, that worsen arthritis symptoms.5 Reducing and preventing stress in your life can go a long way toward protecting your joints and your overall well-being.

Injury or Trauma

Joint injury or trauma, such as a fracture or sprain, can lead to arthritis symptoms that affect a specific joint. Symptoms can start quickly after the event because of increased inflammation caused by the injury, or symptoms can develop months or years after the injury.

Other Health Conditions

Some health conditions may be related to the development of arthritis symptoms, including the following:6

  • Bone spurs are bony lumps that can form on joints affected by osteoarthritis.
  • Infections in another part of your body can sometimes cause arthritis symptoms in your joints.
  • Weight gain puts extra pressure on your joints, which can lead to joint damage and arthritis.
  • Poor sleep night after night may cause increased inflammation, leading to arthritis and a cycle of pain-related sleeplessness.

Talk to your doctor if you have questions about your health conditions.

Options for Treating and Managing Flare-Ups

Arthritis flare-ups can be painful and uncomfortable. There are several things you can do to help relieve your symptoms. Again, talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your symptoms.

  • Get extra rest to allow your joints to recover.
  • Avoid overdoing physical motions or activities that aggravate your symptoms.
  • Use hot and cold therapies like a heating pad or ice pack for soothing relief.
  • Consider treatments like acupuncture or massage to ease symptoms.
  • Over-the-counter medicine can help relieve arthritis symptoms. TYLENOL® 8 HR Arthritis Pain Caplets provide fast-acting, temporary relief of minor pain of arthritis.

How To Prevent and Avoid Future Flare-Ups

A little prevention can go a long way to helping reduce future arthritis flare-ups.

  • Maintain a healthy weight to relieve excess pressure and protect your joints.
  • Light exercise such as walking or gentle stretching can help prevent joint stiffness and soreness.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich in nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and legumes. A healthy diet can help protect your joints and reduce inflammation.
  • Mindfulness or meditation helps many people reduce stress and cope more effectively with symptoms.


Arthritis flare-ups can last one to two days, or they can last a week or more.

Some types of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, can cause fever along with joint symptoms. The fever may be caused by inflammation related to the condition, an infection, or something else.

Related content


1. Nutrition and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Published May 11, 2015. Accessed November 17, 2022.

2. An Anti-Inflammatory Diet May Be Good for Your Joints. Harvard Health Publishing; Harvard Medical School. Published February 1, 2022. Accessed November 17, 2022.

3. How to Eat Less Salt. Arthritis Foundation. Accessed November 17, 2022.

4. Alcohol and Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. Accessed November 17, 2022.

5. How Stress Affects Arthritis. Arthritis Foundation. Accessed November 17, 2022.

6. What Triggers an Arthritis Flare? Arthritis Foundation. Accessed November 17, 2022.