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One of the common symptoms of arthritis is fatigue. Most arthritis medications don't treat fatigue. This article outlines the 10 different treatments for arthritis-related fatigue.

Arthritis, a disease that is characterized by the inflammation of the joints, is frequently accompanied by a range of other symptoms. One of the more debilitating symptoms is feeling so tired that is disrupts your everyday life. This is medically known as fatigue.

There are over a 100 different subtypes of arthritis, and fatigue is a common feature of several different subtypes including rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis, lupus, osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis. There are several reasons why patients with arthritic diseases can develop fatigue.

Here are some of those reasons:

  • Inflammation. Inflammation is the natural response of our immune system to a threat to our body. Generally, this is directed towards foreign pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses. However, in the case of autoimmune disease like arthritis, the immune system mistakenly starts to attack our own body, leading to inflammation. Chronic inflammation in the body puts the body under stress, resulting in fatigue. Therefore, patients with autoimmune disease feel fatigued, particularly when disease activity is high for a long period of time.
  • Chronic Pain. Pain and fatigue tend to go hand-in-hand as pain puts your body under stress. Additionally, pain can lead to a lack of sleep, which causes you to feel fatigued the next day. Furthermore, being fatigued actually increases pain. Therefore, pain and fatigue form a vicious cycle.
  • Side effects due to medication. One of the reasons why people with arthritis develop fatigue is actually due to side effects of the medication that they take to deal with inflammation or pain. Several different arthritis medications can cause drowsiness or fatigue.
  • Sedentary lifestyle. Arthritis causes significant pain in joints, causing sufferers to lead more inactive and sedentary lifestyles. However, the more inactive you are, the more tired you feel as your unused muscles start to weaken. Hence, patients that are more active tend to be less fatigued.
  • Other reasons can include anemia (low healthy red blood cells), lack of sleep, obesity, poor nutrition, depression, loss of muscle mass and other medical conditions.

Treatment for arthritis-related fatigue

Unfortunately, most treatments for arthritis don’t have an effect on fatigue. Therefore, while its important to get started on medication in order to get your arthritis under control, you may need to look into other treatment modalities to specifically address your fatigue problems.

These are 10 ways to get your arthritis-related fatigue under control.

1. Medicine for anemia

As one of the reasons for the development of fatigue in patients with arthritis is the presence of anemia, taking medication to alleviate anemia can help treat fatigue. These medications include irons supplements or a hormone called epoietin.

2. Medication and other treatments for lack of sleep

Sleeping pills can help restore the lack of sleep you may be feeling due to chronic pain. Some of these medications are available over the counter and include eszopiclone, lorazepam, zaleplon, and zolpidem. However, with sleeping pills, it is important to make sure you don’t become dependent on them so consult your doctor before taking them. Additionally, one of the things you can do to help your sleep levels is to avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine during the day as that can disrupt your sleep. Another important thing to do when it comes to having healthy sleep is to go to bed and get up at the same time every day and turn off your computer, TV and cell phone before bed. This can put your mind to sleep easier and earlier on.

3. Vitamin supplements

These can help restore the vitamins in which you may be deficient, which may indirectly be the cause of your fatigue. Talk to your doctor about which vitamins can help you improve your overall health and improve fatigue.

4. Psychoactive medication

These are a class of medicines that actually improve your energy levels by activating regions of your brain responsible for energy and fatigue. These include antidepressants and psychostimulants.

5. Exercise

As mentioned above, people that live a sedentary lifestyle tend to be more fatigued. Therefore, exercise can help increase muscle mass, improve strength and blood circulation, all of which work to reduce pain in patients with arthritis. Furthermore, exercising helps our body produce endorphins, which improve our overall mood and energy levels. Finally, exercising during the day actually help improve sleep. Thus, exercising can significantly help improve fatigue.

6. Drink lots of water

Another thing that can help improve your fatigue levels is to make sure you are well-hydrated. You need to ingest approximately eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day.

7. Eat nutritiously

It is important to nourish your body with adequately nutritional and healthy foods that provide your body with everything that it needs, including protein, dairy and healthy fats. Eating well also helps keep you in the healthy weight range, which is good for improving energy levels as people with extra weight feel more fatigued. Lastly, eating more protein and complex carbohydrates provides energy.

8. Improve stress levels

Stress can add to the fatigue you may already be experiencing with arthritis. Therefore, seeing a therapist or conducting mood-improving activities such as yoga and tai-chi can help calm you down and boost your energy levels.

9. Provide support for your joints

As arthritis affects the joints, wearing a brace or using a cane can help ease the stress on your joints as well as the muscles that support them. Providing this support can help improve fatigue.

10. Rest

One of the best things you can do for your body is to rest in between activities. Providing rest allows your body to recover, thus helping refuel your body for the next activity. As long as you provide enough rest to your body, it should be recovered enough to not feel fatigue for the next activity. For example, if you are running errands all day, make sure to schedule rest in between.

  • Belza, Basia L., et al. "Correlates of fatigue in older adults with rheumatoid arthritis." Nursing research (1993).
  • Pollard, L. C., et al. "Fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis reflects pain, not disease activity." Rheumatology 45.7 (2006): 885-889.
  • Belza, B. L. "Comparison of self-reported fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis and controls." The Journal of Rheumatology 22.4 (1995): 639-643.
  • Kirwan, John R., et al. "Patient perspective: fatigue as a recommended patient centered outcome measure in rheumatoid arthritis." The Journal of rheumatology 34.5 (2007): 1174-1177.
  • Photo courtesy of SteadyHealth

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