If you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA), you will likely experience fatigue from time to time. RA fatigue is not just being tired. It comes without warning and may feel so overwhelming that it prevents you from performing everyday tasks and planned activities. Sometimes, something as simple as taking a shower may require more effort than you can muster. RA fatigue could make it difficult to plan ahead, see friends and family, concentrate, work, and do things you enjoy.
According to the Arthritis Foundation, up to 98 percent of people with RA report fatigue. You are more likely to feel abrupt and frequent fatigue when RA is most active and your joints are inflamed. Pain worsens fatigue because it drains your energy and keeps you from sleeping. Fatigue is also a symptom of depression, which is very common in people with RA.
Combating fatigue requires taking good care of yourself. That means eating well, staying active, pacing yourself, getting enough sleep, and adhering to your treatment plan. Here are details on seven ways to help beat your RA fatigue.
Control inflammation. Your energy levels are affected by many different things when you have RA, and inflammation is the biggest culprit. Talk to your doctor about getting inflammation under control. There are medications that decrease both inflammation and fatigue. You and your doctor can work together to figure out which ones will work best for you.
Get moving. RA pain might make it hard to get moving, but inactivity makes fatigue worse. And most people with RA benefit from activity. The best exercises for people with RA are low impact, such as walking, swimming, and cycling.
Forget the naps. Long naps or naps taken too late in the day may affect your ability to sleep at night. If you having trouble getting restful sleep at night or falling asleep, a nap will only worsen things. Forget the naps and focus on getting to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning. Also, skip alcohol, heavy meals, and caffeine too close to bedtime.
Eat healthy. Eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, veggies, and lean proteins, and keep an eye on portion sizes. Avoid foods high in fat and sugar because these could make you put on weight, feel sluggish, and even make RA symptoms worse.
Take breaks. Listen to your body and rest, especially when you are hurting and/or starting to get tired. You should also rest between strenuous activities. However, don’t rest longer than you are active, unless you have a flare-up or a short-term illness such as the flu.
Use assistive devices. Wearing a brace or using a cane when needed can take pressure off inflamed joints and muscles, helping relieve fatigue and keeping it from getting worse. Other self-help devices can reduce the energy you use at work and at home. Check with your physical therapist to identify which tools are best for your situation.
Check your emotional health. Having a chronic condition like RA could take a toll on your emotional health. A mental health professional can help you to manage you emotional health through talk therapy and/or medication. You should also find a support group where you can talk to others living with RA so you are not isolated, especially if you are struggling with symptoms, pain, fatigue, and difficult emotions.
Slow down, don’t give up
Fatigue is your body’s way of reminding you to be gentle with yourself. But slowing down doesn’t mean giving up. Learn to regulate your activities and choose a pace that is right for you and your body. Let go of any preconceived ideas about how much you should be able to do. Choose to invest your energy on the things that are really important and let go of what isn’t.
Originally Posted at Rheumatoid Connect.