What is Triggering These Flares?

It smells like autumn: that familiar smell of the earth, fallen deciduous leaves, and drying grass. The leaves are rapidly changing from their vibrant greens to fiery reds, yellows, or oranges. I’m trying to focus on the beauty of the season, and the good parts, to override my seasonal affective disorder’s hold on my brain fretting about the impending winter. So far, it seems I’ve left plenty of room for improvement; I’m grieving the end of summer as much as I’m dreading the cold months ahead. One strategy that’s helped me through long winters before is to find things to look forward to, both in terms of larger, one-off events as well as enjoyable parts of my daily activities. I don’t have anything in either of these two categorical buckets right now, but it’s something I will be looking to develop for this winter. Last year, for example, I got really into jigsaw puzzles for recreational time; I’m not sure if that obsession has exhausted itself completely, or just taken a back seat in the past six months, but right now, it’s not a passion that’s exciting me enough at all to go onto a “looking forward to” list. I’m hoping that I quickly develop a new winter-friendly special interest because that will be by its very nature something that I am obsessed with and thus, a draw each day I get to do it.

I have been having lots of joint and muscle pain lately. It’s frustrating because some of the dietary changes resolved much of the daily, chronic pain, but I do still get these flare-ups every other week or so for 3-4 days with no nutritional trigger. I’ve been logging what I eat and how I feel, and there is no correlation between the foods that comprise my current “safe” list and the pain. Essentially, it’s clear that the foods I’m currently eating regularly are not causing joint and muscle pain. There has to be another cause. This makes sense when considering my symptom presentation over the years (there’s definitely a disease underlying my condition), and I believe it gets flared up by several potential triggers; inflammatory foods that my body is sensitive to is only one such trigger. Right now, none of these offending foods are in my diet; I’m confident that it’s any of the other triggers aggravating my disease state because I will go ten days or so on the same foods with virtually no pain, then suddenly have a debilitating spike in pain though my food intake was unchanged.

The trouble is that I haven’t identified all of the other triggers, nor am I 100% sold on my current diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis. It certainly seems plausible that this indeed describes my condition, but I also I have my doubts. That said, regardless as to the name assigned to my disease state, it’s apparent that there are frequent exacerbations and remissions; thus, it is smart to identify specific instigators of the exacerbations if possible, so they can be avoided, again, if possible.

While I know some foods can trigger my condition (because my old diet was a constant source of triggering inflammation and resultant pain (even though I still have flare-ups now, I’m in way less pain most of the time!)), I also know stress is to blame as well, as much I tried to deny the body-mind connection with this problem. A few weeks ago, when I was in my previous flare up before this current one, I was in the midst of a highly stressful life situation. I wasn’t able to sleep and I was very upset. About 24 hours after the insinuating stressful event, the joint pain flared to what felt like a near all-time worst. The stress and anxiety around what was going on lasted several days and the joint flare lingered about a day beyond that. However, it’s not like the stress evaporated as suddenly as it began; it just abated a bit to become more tolerable. Therefore, it makes sense to me that there would be residual joint pain rather than a complete, immediate resolution.

Psoriatic arthritis, for example, is an autoimmune disease so it’s reasonable to accept that stress can indeed trigger a flare. Along the same lines, lack of restorative sleep can have similar physiological effects. Additionally, I think I’m detecting an association in drastic weather/pressure changes and my swelling and pain levels. Both of these recent flares have had an onset that has coincided with big drops in temperature and cold rain. I’ve heard of people with healed fractures citing the ability to feel a storm coming on in their historically-injured bone or joint, so that may be at play here as well.

I can’t think of other likely contributing factors, since my life is really quite repetitive; therefore, it’s not like there are many changing factors introduced at random intervals that could then be instigating a flare up. In essence, there aren’t potential triggers to track because everything is constant; it wouldn’t make sense to have random times where the same normally-innocuous stimuli suddenly cause such a sickness. I guess the search for answers continues…

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