RSD/CRPS Flare-ups and Flare up Protocols
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
"I will walk... when I cannot
walk, I will carry myself,
when I cannot carry myself...
I will fly!"
Written while attending Compass Center for
Functional Restoration. © 2009
|We have all been united by a single
common denominator and that is... Pain"
RSD/CRPS Flare-ups and Flare up protocols
by Twinkle VanFleet/rsdcrpsfire
We often talk about Flare-ups, but what does it mean exactly? Some are unaware of the
meaning or feeling, others aren't sure how to use the word to describe the hard, fast, usually
short term inflated pain. When I say short term I'm meaning the pain you already endure has
suddenly jumped up, spiked, heightened.
The definition of a Flare-up is defined as as sudden outbreak of flame or light: a flare-up of
the embers. An outburst or eruption: a flare-up of anger.
A recurrence or an intensification: a flare-up of rheumatism (RSD/CRPS)
A Medical Dictionary would define it as a sudden outburst or worsening of a disease or an
area on the skin surrounding the primary site of infection (injury) or irritation.
I've altered some of the words to include RSD for better understanding for those unsure of
it's meaning. The precise definitions are located here
Most of us undoubtedly know what a Flare is though there are a few that are unsure of how
to associate the word with the meaning or their pain. I've had a handful of people ask me
what it is and so I wanted to take this time to help them understand the meaning and ways
of possibly easing them.
A young boy may have a flare up, we usually call these growing pains. Those with arthritis
may flare by intense cold. Asthma patients might flare because of allergies.
RSD patients might flare for a number of reasons from light to moderate activity, weather
changes, cooking dinner, playing with their children or grandchildren to nothing at all. It's
important to make every moment count despite the pain or be faced with bitterness, anger
and frustration all our days.
A flare for me is the fire which already burns steadily (7+) on a daily basis to a raging
inferno (10) and isn't limited to a single sensation.
For others it may be a pain level of 2 that springs to a 5 or a 6 that becomes a seemingly
unstoppable 10. These flare-ups might last an hour, can last a week, and some have been
known to last much longer. I am blessed to feel moments of 4/6.
I've been through several flares that was either one very long flare or one rolling right into
another with minimal break in duration or intensity. It becomes hard to tell if it ever ceased
at all until it eases enough that I know I'm through it for the time being.
I've learned to help myself during these times. Duration, frequency and intensity is
something that I have to take control of. We all have to. We truly have to. The tools I use
during these times are called my "Flare-up Protocol". My flare up protocol includes the 3,
The 3, 20's are:
Exercise (ie, Yoga, stretching, walking, if able, light weights, activity, etc)
Modalities (ie, anything that can be placed on the body for pain relief, such as a tens, heat,
Distraction (ie, Memory master system, games, meditation, relaxation, fun, etc.
These can also be considered coping strategies.
My favorite is laughing.
The 3, 20's mean 20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes using modalities and 20 minutes of
These should be done whether or not one is experiencing a flare, but especially during. And
up to 3 times a day.
While it's easier said than done, the worse thing to do for a flare-up is to do nothing at all.
Bringing us back to the use it or lose it theory which is quite accurate. Doing nothing can
cripple us just as much as the pain itself.
I imagine a few of you might be thinking "You've got to be kidding me?! You want me to
exercise when I'm hurting this bad? You must not understand" Oh but I do, I've said it and
thought it a hundred times over myself.
While some will not want to take this to heart, we have to take responsibility for our own
pain, everyone has to learn to and implement their own Flare-up protocols to get through
these extra overwhelming, overbearing, debilitating flares.
As people we expect our doctors to take our pain away and we become discouraged when
there aren't any answers to satisfy our questions. We become depressed and insecure, yet
We have to remember that RSD/CRPS is an incurable illness. Classified incurable because
there isn't a cure to it. There really isn't anything the doctors can do to fix it. If the injury is
correctable, it probably isn't RSD. Our health care professionals can help us with
medications and procedures, and that's it really... just help us along.
We're usually directed to pain management when our other doctors are at a loss. Pain
management is just that, management. Again, not a cure. An area of practice that helps us
manage our pain, not make it disappear. They are intended to help us live some sort of
fulfilling life when nothing else can be done. Pain management is usually a last resort and the
rest is up to us.
We might not like it but we have to take primary responsibility for managing our own pain
because there isn't enough knowledge or medical and scientific certainties out there to do it
Flare ups are apart of having RSD/CRPS or a chronic pain condition. They'll never go away,
we have to learn to accept this. But, with practice, we can better learn to control them.
Do you have a Flare-up protocol? If so, would you share it with us? For those who do not,
it's our hope that through this thread the sharing of idea's and coping strategies become
helpful to one another.
Please feel free to offer your thoughts and comments on the above written as well.
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