Arthritis Fatigue – Answering Your Questions

Arthritis is a chronic condition that affects millions of people worldwide.

In addition to joint pain and inflammation, individuals with arthritis often experience fatigue, which can significantly impact their quality of life.

In this article, we will explore the connection between arthritis and fatigue, its causes, and strategies to manage and minimise the impact of fatigue.

The Link Between Arthritis & Fatigue

Fatigue is a common symptom experienced by individuals with arthritis, regardless of the specific type of arthritis.

It is characterised by a persistent feeling of tiredness, lack of energy, and a general sense of exhaustion.

Fatigue in arthritis is different from normal tiredness and can be overwhelming, interfering with daily activities and reducing productivity.

Fatigue has also been shown to make other arthritis symptoms worse, such as pain and stiffness.

Can Arthritis Cause Fatigue?

Generally, arthritis can lead to fatigue in a number of different ways. Living with the chronic pain caused by arthritis has been shown to be physically and mentally draining leading to fatigue.

To make things worse, arthritis pain can also affect quality of sleep which again can add to the fatigue the conditions cause.

Although every type of arthritis can cause fatigue it is particularly common in inflammatory and autoimmune types of arthritis, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriatic Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis.

These types of arthritis cause the body’s immune system to malfunction and mistakenly attack its own healthy tissues.

This autoimmune disease process can be very energy intensive, painful and can affect normal sleeping patterns – all of which cause fatigue.

Sometimes though, the fatigue may not be directly caused by arthritis and arthritis pain.

Other causes of fatigue in arthritis may include:

  • Inflammation: The ongoing inflammation associated with arthritis can lead to fatigue. The immune system’s response to inflammation requires energy, and this constant immune activity can leave people feeling drained.
  • Pain and Sleep Disturbances: Chronic pain often associated with arthritis can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to poor sleep quality. Arthritis pain can make it hard to sleep well at night. If you’re not getting enough restful sleep, it can lead to daytime fatigue. Pain can also be exhausting in itself, making you feel worn out.
  • Medications: Some medications used to manage arthritis, such as certain pain relievers or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), can cause fatigue as a side effect. It is important to discuss any concerns about medication-related fatigue with a healthcare professional.
  • Emotional and Psychological Factors: Living with a chronic condition like arthritis can lead to emotional and psychological challenges, including stress, anxiety, and depression. These factors can contribute to fatigue and further impact energy levels.

Managing Fatigue

While fatigue can be a challenging aspect of arthritis, there are strategies to help manage and minimise its impact:

#1. Pace Yourself: Listen to your body and take breaks when you need them. Don’t push yourself too hard or try to do everything at once. It’s okay to prioritise and spread out your activities throughout the day.

#2. Rest and Sleep: It’s important to listen to your body and rest when needed. Make sure you’re getting enough restful sleep at night. Establish a relaxing bedtime routine, create a comfortable sleep environment, and try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule.

#3. Gentle Exercise: Engaging in low-impact exercises like walking, swimming, or stretching can help boost your energy levels and reduce fatigue. Consult with your doctor or a physical therapist to find exercises that are safe and suitable for you. Exercise boosts energy levels, improves sleep quality, and enhances overall wellbeing.

#4. Manage Stress: Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or hobbies that help you relax. Taking care of your mental and emotional well-being can reduce fatigue. Seek support from healthcare professionals, counselors, or support groups to develop coping mechanisms.

#5. Ask for Help: Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance when needed. Friends, family, or support groups can provide support and help with tasks that are challenging when you’re feeling tired.

#6. Balance Activity with Rest: Find a balance between staying active and allowing yourself time to rest. It’s important to keep moving, but also listen to your body and take breaks as needed.

#7. Maintain a Balanced Lifestyle: Adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet, regular water intake, and avoiding excessive caffeine or alcohol. Balanced nutrition and hydration contribute to overall energy levels and wellbeing.

So What Else Causes Arthritis Fatigue?

Other factors can contribute to fatigue, like medication side effects, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet or nutritional deficiencies, anxiety or depression, or other medical conditions.

It is important to work with your health team to identify the possible causes of your fatigue, so that you can work out the best ways to manage it.

Fatigue is a common symptom of arthritis that can make everyday life challenging. By understanding the causes of fatigue and implementing strategies to manage it, you can take control of your energy levels and improve your overall wellbeing.

Remember to listen to your body, pace yourself, prioritise rest, and seek support when needed.

With the right approach, you can better manage fatigue and lead a fulfilling life despite the challenges of arthritis.

July 2023