I have rheumatoid arthritis, and I feel tired and worn out all the time. How can I fight this fatigue and get some of my energy back?

Your situation is very common. People with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can feel tired or worn out even after a full night's sleep, or when their symptoms are mild. Several options can help you fend off fatigue.

Pace yourself

Alternating periods of activity with periods of rest can help stretch your energy reserves. This can be a tricky balancing act, because too little activity can be harmful, too. It may help to plan certain activities for the times of day you have the most energy.

Keeping a diary to record your activities and your arthritis symptoms can reveal which activities are leading to symptom flares. This can help you plan how to do those tasks differently.

Many employers now offer more-flexible work schedules or opportunities for working from home, which can help you spend your energy where it will do the most good.

Get high-quality sleep

Fewer hours of deep sleep will leave you feeling more rested than more hours of poor sleep.

  • Manage nighttime pain. If joint pain keeps you awake, talk to your doctor about adjusting your medications to better control pain at night.
  • Set a routine. Go to bed close to the same time each night. Getting into a regular schedule can make it easier for you to fall asleep.
  • Create a peaceful environment. Use blackout drapes or an eye mask and earplugs to ensure your room is as dark and quiet as possible.
  • Get comfortable. A memory foam mattress and pillows that support you comfortably can help make it less likely that you'll wake during the night from tossing and turning.

Control depression

Depression often causes fatigue and is common in people with painful inflammatory diseases such as RA. Counseling and antidepressant medications can be very helpful. Many doctors prescribe low-dose antidepressants as sleep aids, even in people who haven't been diagnosed with depression.

Exercise regularly

Regular low-impact exercise such as walking, swimming or biking can boost energy, fight fatigue and promote sound sleep when you have arthritis.

  • Exercise reduces pain by increasing muscle mass, strength, flexibility and blood circulation.
  • Exercise helps lift any anxiety or depression that might be weighing you down by causing your brain to release stress-relieving hormones.

Finally, to avoid paying the price later, resist the urge to overdo it when you're feeling good. By talking to your doctor and patiently making some lifestyle adjustments, you can reduce your RA-related fatigue and reclaim your get-up-and-go.

Sept. 21, 2023