I have rheumatoid arthritis, and I feel tired and worn out all the time. How can I fight this fatigue and get some of my energy back?
Answers from April Chang-Miller, M.D.
Your situation is very common. People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can feel tired or worn out even after a full night's sleep, or when their symptoms are mild. Overall, pacing your daily activities and taking frequent rest breaks helps fend off fatigue. Also, addressing just one specific issue that may be contributing to your exhaustion can make a big difference.
Get high-quality sleep
Fewer hours of deep sleep will leave you feeling more rested than more hours of poor sleep.
- Manage nighttime pain. If joint pain keeps you awake, talk to your doctor about adjusting your medications to better control pain at night.
- Set a routine. Go to bed close to the same time each night. Getting into a regular schedule can make it easier for you to fall asleep.
- Create a peaceful environment. Use blackout drapes or an eye mask and ear plugs to ensure your room is as dark and quiet as possible.
- Get comfortable. A memory-foam mattress and pillows that support you comfortably can help make it less likely that you'll wake during the night from tossing and turning.
Depression often causes fatigue and is common in people with painful inflammatory diseases such as RA.
- If you are concerned that you may suffer from depression, talk to your doctor.
- Some medications used to treat arthritis, such as prednisone, can cause depression as a side effect. If you're feeling low, ask your doctor if your medication may be the cause.
- Many doctors prescribe low-dose anti-depressants as sleep aids, even in people who haven't been diagnosed with depression.
Regular low-impact exercise such as walking, swimming, or biking can boost energy, fight fatigue and promote sound sleep when you have arthritis.
- Exercise reduces pain by increasing muscle mass, strength, flexibility and blood circulation.
- Exercise helps lift any anxiety or depression that might be weighing you down by causing your brain to release stress-relieving hormones.
Finally, to avoid paying the price later, resist the urge to overdo it when you're feeling good. By talking to your doctor and patiently making some lifestyle adjustments, you can reduce your RA-related fatigue and get back your get-up-and-go.
Dec. 22, 2017
See more Expert Answers
- How to beat fatigue. Arthritis Foundation. http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/pain-management/fatigue/beat-fatigue.php. Accessed April 29, 2015.
- Guide to getting a good night's sleep. National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society. http://www.nras.org.uk/guide-to-getting-a-good-night-s-sleep. Accessed April 28, 2015.
- Durcan L, et al. The effect of exercise on sleep and fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis: A randomized controlled study. The Journal of Rheumatology. 2014;41:1966.
- Dogu B, et al. Effects of isotonic and isometric hand exercises on pain, hand functions, dexterity and quality of life in women with rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatology International. 2013;33:2625.
- Rongen-van Dartel SA, et al. Relationship between objectively assessed physical activity and fatigue in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: Inverse correlation of activity and fatigue. Arthritis Care & Research. 2014;66:852.
- Balsamo S, et al. Exercise and fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis. Israel Medical Association Journal. 2014;16:57.
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- Physical activity and arthritis overview. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/pa_overview.htm. Accessed May 6, 2015.
- Physical activity for arthritis fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/pa_factsheet.htm. Accessed May 6, 2015.