Managing flare-ups when my emotions and pain are intertwined

What to do when stress and chronic pain exacerbate each other

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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Some weeks just don’t go how you hope they will. This past week was like that for me, and I can really feel it.

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) unfortunately means I have a strong physical-emotional connection. Being stressed often makes me stiff and sore, which in turn makes me more stressed. It can be a vicious circle if I don’t take steps to short-circuit it right away.

It’s normal for people to carry tension or stress in their body, especially in their neck and shoulders. As someone who already has significant shoulder trouble (which often radiates into my neck), I don’t need any additional tightness there. But sometimes life happens, and it just is what it is.

Although I had a massage just a few days ago, I feel like I haven’t had one in weeks. I’m also exhausted, which is another common EDS symptom that can be exacerbated by my emotions. It can be incredibly frustrating, because when I’m having a bad day or week, the last thing I want to do is manage a pain flare. Yet these issues are often inextricably linked for me.

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Living With Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Requires Problem-solving

Breaking the cycle

Step one is to acknowledge that I’m frustrated by my pain. Keeping a positive attitude doesn’t mean I never get upset, but rather that I take the time to process my negative emotions and then choose to move on from them.

Second, I work on ways to manage my pain and stress. That often includes using my heating pad and talking with a trusted friend or family member to work through my emotions. When the physical and emotional are intertwined, I need to tackle both to make progress in managing my flare.

Next, I try to make time for something I enjoy, whether it’s going on a quick shopping trip, taking my horse on a trail ride, or meeting a friend for dinner. Sometimes that little extra push of positivity and self-care can make a big difference.

Lastly, I remind myself that bad days don’t last forever, and neither do bad weeks. My stress will level back out, and my next massage will help me relax and feel more like myself again. While no one likes having tough days, they’re part of life. Those of us with rare diseases may just need a few extra tools in our toolbox to manage them.

Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.


heather avatar


your columns are excellent. to feel understood is tremendously healing for me .my horse riding days are long gone but I have wonderful memories . thanks and happy trails to you .

Mischa Brown avatar

Mischa Brown

This was a much-needed reminder, as I am having a flare day today due to unusual stress this week. Helps me to remember to breathe more deeply, and that I’ll get through one moment at a time. Thank you.


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