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 That Help Ease Fatigue
Studies have shown 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 medications that may help relieve fatigue.
Anemia medicine. If you have anemia, which can leave you feeling drained and fatigued, you may need iron supplements or the hormone epoietin (Epogen, Procrit).
Sleep aids. 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.
Vitamins. If your nutrition is poor, which can also result in fatigue, your doctor may suggest you take vitamins or other supplements to fill your nutritional gaps and strengthen your overall health.
Psychoactive medicines. You may benefit from “activating” medications that increase energy. These include some antidepressants, like bupropion (Wellbutrin), and psychostimulants, like modafinil (Provigil).
Lifestyle Changes That Combat Fatigue
According to studies, including several by Patti Katz, PhD, of the University of California San Francisco, the most effective interventions for fatigue are good lifestyle choices, such as these.
Get Up and Move. Exercise helps with fatigue in many ways. It increases muscle mass, strength, blood circulation and flexibility, all of which boost energy and reduce pain. Exercise also generates endorphins, brain chemicals that produce a sense of well-being and vitality and help improve nighttime sleep.
Hydrate. Dehydration can be a hidden source of fatigue. There's no set amount of fluids you should consume, but a rule of thumb is to drink at least a half-gallon (eight 8-ounce glasses) or more a day, depending on your activity level and how hot and dry the weather is.
Eat Well. 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 also ease fatigue that comes with strain and pain.
Maintain Good Sleep Habits. Getting a good night’s rest is an important step in battling fatigue. Use good sleep hygiene by avoiding nicotine, and refraining from alcohol or caffeine before bed because they can disrupt sleep. Go to bed and get up at the same times every day. Make your bedroom cool, dark and comfortable. Turn off your computer, cell phone and television. And 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 if you can, hire a housecleaner to come once every week or two.
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