Arthritis and Fatigue – Learning to Cope

arthritis and fatigue

Arthritis and Fatigue

We’ve all been there….. feeling so tired that it’s all you can do to get out of your pj’s and get dressed for the day.  For most of us, this weariness is short lived and comes from “over-doing it” either physically or mentally.  A good night’s sleep and a couple of days of rest and we regain our energy and get back to our daily routines.  For people with arthritis, the fatigue can be long lasting— severe exhaustion that just doesn’t go away.  Learning to cope with fatigue can be crucial when managing your arthritis symptoms.

Fatigue is a primary symptom of most forms of inflammatory arthritis. Fatigue may be especially debilitating when the disease is active and it greatly impacts daily living.One recent study in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism shows just how debilitating fatigue really is. In the study, 122 people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) filled out questionnaires about fatigue. As a group, they rated fatigue as their most bothersome symptom, ahead of pain and stiffness.  96% said they experienced some fatigue, and 34% described their fatigue as continuous.

If you’re feeling tired, it may be some comfort to know that this symptom is finally starting to get the respect it deserves. Research interest is increasing, and one day your physician may be able to prescribe a fatigue-relieving pill to go along with your pain medicine. For now, though, you may not be able to avoid fatigue entirely, but you can learn ways to manage it.

There are several factors which cause fatigue.

Disease Activity- Fatigue is a known symptom of arthritis and related diseases and becomes a greater problem during periods of flare in disease activity. Fatigue is a result of the body’s reaction to substances released in the bloodstream by activated immune cells. Work with your doctor to keep whatever condition you have under the best possible control. If you feel especially wiped out during flares, ask your doctor whether changing your medicine, adding a new one, or increasing your dose might help.

Pain- Coping with chronic pain consumes a lot of energy and concentration. Also, when a joint is painful, you may unconsciously hold your body in an awkward position that tires you out faster. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about strategies for dealing with pain. In addition to taking your pain-relief medicines, try applying hot or cold packs, soaking in a bath, or gently massaging tense muscles.

Sleep Deprivation- The pain and discomfort of arthritis leads to interrupted sleep for many. One arthritis study revealed more than half of the participants complained of interrupted or shortened sleep cycles due to their disease. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, establish a relaxing bedtime routine, such as listening to music or taking a warm bath. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and comfortably cool. Then go to bed and get up at about the same time every day, even on weekends. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and big meals close to bedtime.

Poor nutrition/exercise- Maintaining a healthy weight and participating in regular exercise may also help reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue. Food fuels your body, and it takes high-quality fuel to provide optimal energy. Resist the temptation to grab a candy bar when you’re tired. Instead, for the best nutrition, choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products.  If arthritis in your hands makes cooking a chore, adaptive kitchen devices can help. Options include utensils with easy-to-grip handles and electric jar openers. Also, look for easy but nutritious food items, such as precut produce, healthy frozen meals, and fast-food salads.

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Our blogs are presented for informational purposes only and are not to be considered medical advice. Because your condition is unique to you, it is recommended that you consult with your health care provider before attempting any medical or therapeutic intervention. We are happy to answer questions or comments pertaining to any products mentioned in our blogs, however, we cannot provide a diagnosis or medical advice.

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