The health complications of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are numerous. People living with RA face flare-ups, stiffening, and pain and as a result are left with fatigue.
RA can make you feel fatigued for several reasons, and it can be difficult to pinpoint which aspect of having RA is causing your fatigue. Often a combination of factors causes increased tiredness.
Determining the source of your fatigue is the first step, and will help you take the next step to finding a remedy to help relieve your fatigue.
Pain and Medications
Your pain from RA may cause you to feel tired because it’s exhausting to hurt. Also, you may take medications to relieve your suffering, which has side effects that worsen your fatigue.
Muscle relaxants, narcotics, and medications often have sedating effects which persist for hours and may cause you to feel groggy. Medications such as corticosteroids and biologics hamper your immune response, which can make you feel tired too.
If you have RA, you may be more susceptible to infections, especially if you take immune-suppressing medications. Fatigue may be a sign of an impending infection or other illness.
If you find your energy levels are draining significantly,
RA stiffness and pain may be keeping you awake at night. If you have difficulty falling or staying asleep, you may not be getting enough hours of uninterrupted sleep.
A lack of sleep can take a toll on your energy levels. If you find your regular 8 hours of sleep is too much, you may find naps to be beneficial — unless they prevent your to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
If you are overweight, your energy levels will fall. This is a particularly true if you have RA.
The extra weight from your body puts stress on your joints which may result in feeling more pain, and an increase in medications that cause fatigue as a side effect.
If you maintain a healthy weight, you may find that your energy levels will rise.
Eating well-balanced diet supplies your body with the nutrients it needs for energy and tissue repair. Following a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables ensures that you get plenty of antioxidants that will help reduce inflammation and flare-ups.
Your rheumatoid arthritis diet should focus on consuming foods which contain essential fatty acids to help relieve inflammation and pain. As a result, you may find a reduce dependence on medications which may promote fatigue.
Healthy food choices include:
- Flax and hemp seeds
- Fish, including herring, salmon, mackerel, and sardines
- Supplements, including flax, fish, krill, evening primrose, borage, or blackcurrant seed oils
Avoid “junk” foods and an excess intake of meat as both increase inflammation. Limit your intake of alcohol and caffeine.
Exercise are great ways to reduce inflammation and increase energy levels.
Low-impact exercises, such as swimming or stretching routines are often best. Check with your healthcare provider for exercise recommendations and how you can get started.
It’s important to remember to modify your exercise routine during flare-ups as too much or not enough may result in fatigue and injury. Also, be sure to perform warm-up exercises before you begin any type of exercise and a cool-down exercise after.
Pushing Yourself Too Hard
Are you expecting yourself to do all of the activities that you did before you had RA? Depending on your age and level of health, you may be expecting too much of yourself. This may result in energy-stealing frustration.
You must pay attention to what your body is telling you so that you will have less stiffness, and pain. Remember to take things one step at a time and ask for help when you need it.
Living with RA is emotionally challenging. You may be worried about your ability to care for your loved ones and maintaining independence.
It is well-known that pain can impact your emotional well-being. People who suffer from chronic health conditions often suffer from anxiety and depression — both of these conditions can decrease your energy.
If you are newly diagnosed, you may feel angry, isolated, or resentful. You may feel overwhelmed and exhausted due to focusing all of your energy on your RA.
Consider taking a walk in a park, enjoy a cup of soothing herbal tea, get together with friends or family, get a massage, or just considering relaxing by watching your favorite show.
If you find your anxiety and depression is overwhelming, talk with your healthcare provider about the emotional challenges you’re facing and find a treatment plan that is best for you.
Is It Your RA?
While there are many reasons why RA can cause fatigue, it is important to consider that tiredness may not be related to your RAat all — it may be a sign of an unrelated condition.
Discuss with your healthcare provider if you are unable to determine the cause of your fatigue, or if it is interfering with your activities of daily living.
NewLifeOutlook aims to empower people living with chronic mental and physical health conditions, encouraging them to embrace a positive outlook despite unfortunate circumstances.
Our articles are full of practical advice from people who have firsthand experience of rheumatoid arthritis, and as a result truly understand what our readers are going through, and our community members are welcoming, understanding and supportive.