Rheumatoid Arthritis Tips to Manage Fatigue
When your rheumatoid arthritis leaves you feeling drained, then reboot your energy levels with the perfect moves. Exercise, healthful meals, and good sleep habits are key weapons in your fight against fatigue.
It may appear counter-intuitive, but regular exercise can help you strike back against extreme fatigue. It makes your muscles stronger, which requires some of the strain off your broken joints. Additionally, it boosts blood flow to your brain, making you more alert. When you are active throughout the day, it can help you sleep better at night, too, so your body is able to recharge.
Jean Foster, who has had RA for 14 years, learned that lesson firsthand. She does some kind of exercise daily. “This does wonders for my energy levels since I sleep better and have less anxiety,” she says. “If I’m tired or stiff, sitting at precisely the identical place makes it worse.”
In 1 study by the University of California, San Francisco, people with RA who wore pedometers and kept track of how many steps they took daily had less fatigue than those who did not.
Foster tries to be smart about another workout she does, too. “When I run, I go on paths so that my joints have a milder impact,” says the 32-year-old resident of Boulder, CO. “If I do yoga and certain joints hurt, I change my poses.”
Take Breaks When You Want Them
If you do a lot of exercises or do it too intensely, it can sometimes backfire. It might leave you more exhausted than when you began. And if you are in the midst of an RA flare-up, even ordinary activities could be too much for your body to deal with.
“If you’re tired just doing the housework, get someone to help. If you are feeling really run down, have a rest or a day from work.”
It sounds like a tiny no-brainer, but you may have fatigue since you are not sleeping well. “It is harder for patients with RA to shed sleep than it is for others,” Goodman says.
You’ll receive more shut-eye if you take up the ideal bedtime habits. Ensure that your bedroom is cool and dark, and avoid taking a look at your mobile phone or watching TV in bed, Goodman says. If pain keeps you awake, speak with your doctor about whether you can find better ways to handle your symptoms.
Boost Your Spirits
RA and a few of the medications that treat it increase your risk for depression, which can cause you to feel more tired than normal.
A therapist can help you manage your psychological wellbeing. A psychiatrist may also prescribe antidepressants if he believes that’s ideal for you.
Goodman also recommends joining a support group to speak to others who have rheumatoid arthritis. “They can make you feel less isolated if you are having a difficult time,” she says, and assist you in finding unique ways to approach the challenges that come with RA.
Assess Your Medicines
Consult your doctor if any of the meds you choose could play a part in your fatigue.
This can make you feel tired, almost like you are constantly fighting the flu.
Eat balanced meals that have loads of fruits, veggies, and lean protein. It will provide you with a steady flow of energy through the day.
Stay away from food that is high in sugar and fat, and keep an eye on portion sizes. When you put on pounds it can cause you to feel lethargic, and your RA symptoms can get worse.
Your energy levels are influenced by a lot of different things when you have RA. Some are directly related to your disease, but a few aren’t. “I think the significant strategy in managing fatigue is to attempt and sort out what is causing it,” Goodman says. “Then you and your physician can address it at its source.”
Since she was diagnosed, Foster says she has gotten good at learning what makes her RA symptoms worse or better. “Each time I have a flare-up, I think about what I have done differently in the last couple of days,” she says. “Educating myself about my state, and knowing how it affects my own body, has been very useful in maintaining my energy levels up.”
Susan Goodman, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine, Weill Cornell Medical School; associate director, Inflammatory Arthritis Center; medical chief and research director, Combined Arthritis Program, Hospital for Special Surgery.
Arthritis Foundation: “How to Beat Fatigue.”
Durcan, L. The Journal of Rheumatology, October 2014.
Hospital for Special Surgery: “Mastering the Impact of Fatigue in Rheumatoid Arthritis.”
News release, American College of Rheumatology.