Seated women holding her ribs in pain

9 Surprising Things That Cause A Pain Flare Up!

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A pain flare up can be caused by many things, including not getting enough sleep, overdoing everyday activities, not drinking enough, and eating the wrong foods.

Understanding a pain flare up

A pain flare up describes a sudden increase in pain and symptoms relating to a chronic condition. In your case it will be due to your hypermobility and any other associated conditions you may have, such as fibromyalgia and long covid.

Too much exercise

Exercise is crucial for people with hypermobility as it helps to strengthen and stabilize the joints. But I find it hard to know how much exercise to do.

Everyone with hypermobility is different so there’s no one size fits all exercise requirement. You also need to consider the medical conditions alongside your hypermobility that you have, such as fibromyalgia, as these can affect the amount of exercise you’re capable of.

Ehlers Danlos Support UK recommends starting with low-intensity exercise for 5 to 10 minutes between two and three times per week.

Remember that vacuuming your house, climbing up and down the stairs, and walking around the shops all count as exercise. These activities will also impact your tiredness levels due to your hypermobility.

I find that household chores and activities like painting and cooking are more likely to cause a pain flare up than ‘traditional’ exercise. So, it’s worth focusing on helping your body with good, hypermobility-friendly exercises.

Not enough exercise

So many of us zebras are guilty of not getting enough exercise. Being tired, having pain, and fearing a pain flare up are all reasons why we shy away from exercise. But this can cause a pain flare up as sitting around doing nothing can make our joints tight and cause tension in our bodies, which lead to pain.

In the long run, exercise is one of the best things we can do. Look for gentle exercises for hypermobility, such as Pilates, swimming, Tai Chi, and yoga.

The food you eat

I’m writing this a few days after Easter and right now I feel like sugar is the devil! I’ve eaten a lot of Easter chocolate over the past few days and boy can I feel it! My legs are in agony and right now I’m sitting here with my TENS unit on for pain relief.

Sugar causes inflammation in the body. I knew this before I delved into the Easter eggs, yet I still did it! But I regret it now! I even included sugar on the list of foods that people with hypermobility should avoid.

Other foods that can cause a pain flare up include:

  • Saturated fat
  • Salt
  • Red meat
  • Fried food
  • Trans fats
  • Refined grains
  • Ultra processed foods (UPFs)


Do you go to the toilet a lot?

I know I do. In fact, I had no idea that the average person urinates just 6 to 7 times per day. I know I go a lot more than that!

Hypermobility is linked to many bladder conditions, including frequent urination. This happens because the bladder stretches too much, doesn’t empty completely, and due to autonomic fluctuations.

The problem with frequent urination is that losing so much fluid can lead to dehydration which then causes pain in the body. You can’t reduce your fluid intake to solve the problem, either, as not drinking enough will cause dehydration too.

Multiple studies have found that dehydration heightens pain in the body. You also need to bear in mind that dehydration occurs in hypermobility due to excessive sweating, so it’s very important that you do all you can to stay hydrated.

Pushing yourself too much

Pushing myself can look like walking the dogs, cooking dinner, doing some writing work on here, and going to the shop. All activites that are normal everyday things for many people.

Although I don’t always do it myself, the best thing you can do to avoid a pain flare up is to pace yourself as much as possible. If you need to walk the dogs and make dinner, don’t do them back to back. Have plenty of breaks and rest time, and if you need to nap – do it!


There are lots of medications that are known to cause pain. Hartford Healthcare warns that some steroids, statins, antibiotics, and osteoporosis medications are known to cause pain in some people. So, if you’re taking any of these meds, they may be the cause of your pain influx.

Lack of sleep

Typically, people with hypermobility need more sleep than non-hypermobile people. That’s often easier said than done though as insomnia is a common symptom of hypermobility. Studies have found that a lack of sleep heightens pain and makes you more sensitive to it.


Stress is a leading cause of pain. Excess stress makes you body tense and your muscles tighten, this then causes pain. The longer you’re stressed for, the more pain you’re likely to feel.

I know it’s not always easy to avoid stress, but you can do things to destress, including:

  • Meditation
  • Taking a bath
  • Reading
  • Listening to calming music
  • Yoga
  • Go for a walk
  • Have a massage

The environment

Environmental factors, most of which are beyond our control, contribute to pain. Climate and air pollution, for example, are two causes of pain. But, the good news is that environmental factors can also improve pain levels.

The study ‘Pain in its Environmental Context: Implications for Designing Environments to Enhance Pain Control‘ highlights how light, nature, and video and virtual reality environments can all be used to design environments that minimize pain.


  • Amy

    Amy lives with hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD). She spent years not knowing what was wrong with her body, before eventually being diagnosed in her 30s. She has two young children - both of whom are hypermobile.

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