How to Beat Arthritis Fatigue
Fatigue can be a persistent foe when you have arthritis. Learn how to fight back and get the rest and energy you need.
The first step in fighting arthritis-related fatigue is to identify possible causes. Keeping a journal to note your energy levels throughout the day and what you did before, during and after can help. Once you recognize possible causes of your fatigue, discuss them with your doctor. The two of you can come up with a comprehensive plan so you have the energy you need. The plan to regain your vigor may include changes to your arthritis medication and lifestyle, as well as medications to treat fatigue directly.
Medications to Treat Causes of Fatigue
A 2017 study published in Current Rheumatology Reports, along with earlier ones, show that medications used to treat your inflammatory arthritis don’t do much to help fatigue, and some medications can make you drowsy to boot. But unchecked inflammation and pain caused by arthritis certainly contribute to fatigue. So, your first step in getting your energy back is to get disease activity under control. You will also need to treat any other underlying medical conditions you have that may cause or worsen your fatigue.
Here are a few types of medicine your doctor may prescribe that are focused on treating fatigue.
If you have anemia, you may need iron supplements or the hormone epoietin (Epogen, Procrit).
Sleeping pills may help promote restorative sleep. Newer medications, including eszopiclone (Lunesta), lorazepam (Ativan), zaleplon (Sonata) and zolpidem (Ambien), are less likely to trigger dependence than older sleep medications.
If your nutrition is poor, your doctor may suggest you take vitamins or other supplements to fill your nutritional gaps and strengthen your overall health.
You may benefit from “activating” medications that increase energy. These include some antidepressants, like bupropion (Wellbutrin), and psychostimulants, like modafinil (Provigil).
Lifestyle Changes to Combat Fatigue
Studies such as several done by Patti Katz, PhD, of the University of California San Francisco, show the most effective interventions for fatigue are good lifestyle choices.
Lifestyle Changes to Combat Fatigue
Get Up and Move
Exercise helps with fatigue in many ways. It increases muscle mass, strength, blood circulation and flexibility, all of which will boost energy and reduce pain. Exercise also generates endorphins, which are brain chemicals that produce a sense of well-being and vitality – and they can improve nighttime sleep.
Dehydration can be a hidden source of fatigue. You need at least a half-gallon of fluids (eight 8-ounce glasses) or more a day, depending on your activity level and how hot and dry the weather is.
Nourish your body with good, whole foods. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and be sure to get adequate lean protein and healthy fats. If you need to lose weight, reduce your portions and limit processed, high-salt, sugary foods. Always start your day with breakfast that includes lean protein and complex carbohydrates to provide long-lasting energy.
Ease Your Mind
If depression or stress is adding to your fatigue or keeping you awake at night, you might want to see a therapist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction and mind-body exercise like yoga and tai chi can help calm your thoughts and boost your energy.
Support Your Joints
Wearing a brace or using a cane when necessary can help take stress off your joints and the muscles surrounding them, which can help with fatigue.
Maintain Good Sleep Habits
Sleep hygiene is an important part of getting a good night’s rest. Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine because they can disrupt sleep. Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day. Make your bedroom cool, dark and comfortable. Turn off your computer, cell phone and television. Follow a bedtime ritual to signal your body that it’s time to sleep.
Take a Break
Remain active, but rest between activities. Rest allows muscles to refuel for more activity. Spread activities throughout the day and plan strenuous tasks for times when you typically have the most energy.
Get Some Help
If you don’t have the energy to do everything you need to, ask for help. Get family members to help around the house, for example, or hire a housecleaner to come once every week or two.
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