Brain Fog – is it all in your head?

Symptoms such as stiffness, swelling and pain may be typical for inflammatory arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis among others. But many people often have trouble with their memory, concentrating, thinking clearly or just feeling ‘fuzzy’. This is often described as brain fog.

Possible Causes

Although not a medical term, some potential causes for brain fog could include:

  • Inflammation – see further reading below: Rheumatoid arthritis: How chronic inflammation affects the brain
  • Poor quality sleep or lack of sleep
  • Poor nutrition
  • Little or no exercise
  • Medications that are taken for inflammatory arthritic conditions
  • Depression & anxiety
  • Chronic pain

Given that your condition may be causing brain fog, what can you do about it?

Tips to Manage Brain Fog

Stay organised: establish a set schedule, use reminders and planners, write lists, break tasks into smaller parts  and keep items in the same place – such as your car keys in a certain bowl on the bench.

Keep records: write information down on paper or ask someone to text/message/email you so you have the information to refer to.

Sleep habits: To try to get more sleep, set up a sleep routine and make your bedroom a sanctuary – avoid stimuli such as having a TV in your room or using your phone/tablet just before bed.

Map your brain fog patterns: this will give you an insight into if there are times in the day/week that are worse than others – you can then plan around this accordingly.

Check Medications: ask your doctor if any of the medications you are taking could be making your brain fog worse or perhaps there are other medical intervention that are right for you.

Avoid over-stimulation: light, noise, weather conditions, shopping centres etc. can make brain fog worse. Limit your time in these environments if you know it affects you and take some quiet time out.

Avoid distractions: such as switching off you phone while you complete a task.

Exercising regularly: at your own level, build it into your routine so that you don’t find easy excuses to miss it. For some, intense exercise can cause pain flares. Choose an exercise or activity that you can tolerate and slowly increase the intensity or frequency over time.

Take time out when you need it: postpone, cancel, switch tasks etc. – you don’t need to make life harder than it needs to be!

Manage your mental health: strategies that manage stress and anxiety, that often accompanies cognitive impairments, like mindfulness, meditation, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Manage your chronic pain: this may be effecting your sleep and mental health.

For further information, please refer to the Sources & Further Reading section below.


Sources & Further Reading


Ask Kat: Fibromyalgia Brain Fog 

Tips for a better nights sleep

Exercise to Reduce Pain

Tips to manage chronic pain

Anti-Inflammatory Diet


What is brain fog and what causes it? 

Medical News Today

Rheumatoid arthritis: How chronic inflammation affects the brain

What’s the link between brain fog and rheumatoid arthritis?

Health News US

Rheumatoid Arthritis May Be Impacting Your Brain Fog

Arthritis Foundation

Why Do Some People With Rheumatoid Arthritis Experience “Brain Fog”?

Creaky Joints (US)

You Can Ease Inflammatory Arthritis Brain Fog with These 12 Tips for a Sharper Mind

Arthritis NSW – we’re here to help

We’re here to help whenever you need us. We have a variety of options available for support and information.