15 Ways to Ease Rheumatoid Arthritis Fatigue
John A. Flynn, M.D., M.B.A. | June 9, 2016 Sept 9, 2016
People with rheumatoid arthritis tend not to mention their tiredness to their doctor. Don’t make this mistake. Your doctor can’t help if he or she is unaware of the problem. These tips may also help.
1. Move more
Exercise increases muscle mass, strength, flexibility, and circulation, which makes movement easier and less painful. It also stimulates brain chemicals that produce energy and a feeling of well-being. Good choices are low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, cycling, and yoga.
2. Check your medications
Drugs for high blood pressure and antidepressants can cause tiredness. If you think a drug may be contributing to your fatigue, ask your doctor about a lower dosage or an alternative.
3. Get treatment for depression
Depression is common in people with rheumatoid arthritis. If you think you might be depressed, let your doctor know how you’re feeling.
4. Get tested for anemia
Anemia affects up to 70 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis. If you have anemia, your blood does not carry enough oxygen to the rest of your body, which causes you to feel tired.
5. Get tested for underactive thyroid
People with rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk for developing hypothyroidism. Fatigue and joint and muscle pain can be symptoms.
6. Relieve pain promptly
Continued pain causes fatigue. Use pain medications, joint rest, and applications of heat or cold when needed.
7. Get ample sleep
Most people need seven to nine hours a night. If pain is keeping you awake, your rheumatoid arthritis medication may need to be adjusted or changed to get better control of inflammation. A mild sleep aid also may help.
8. Improve your diet
Active rheumatoid arthritis may cause you to lose your appetite and not get enough energy-boosting nutrients. When possible, choose energy-promoting foods such as nuts, fruits, and protein (like eggs or low-fat yogurt).
9. Lose weight
Being overweight can lead to sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, and increase stress on joints as well as inflammation.
10. Support your joints
Taking stress off your joints when you need to by using a brace or cane can help reduce fatigue.
11. Chronicle your pain
Are there certain times when your fatigue worsens? Jot it down, then work with your doctor to establish a pattern that may help you better predict—and be prepared for— episodes of fatigue.
12. Pace yourself
Divide your tasks by thinking of your energy in terms of a budget that you must balance. Just as you wouldn’t spend all your money at the beginning of the month, don’t carry out all of your errands at one time.
13. Try to conserve energy
Instead of making several trips up and down stairs, consolidate activities and complete all the tasks on one floor before moving to the next.
14. Consider therapy
A 2011 study found that cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of psychotherapy used to change behavior patterns, may help relieve fatigue. People with RA who underwent twice-weekly sessions for six weeks reported significant improvements.
15. Talk to an occupational therapist
He or she can teach you how to conserve energy, relieve stress, practice relaxation techniques, and get better-quality sleep.