The Rheumatoid Arthritis and Fatigue Connection: What you should Know
Rheumatoid Arthritis or RA: When your immune system attacks your own joints. Individuals with RA know the impact of this affliction on daily living. Waking up with swollen, painful, and stiff joints making even the most menial task of dressing, getting out of bed, tedious.
When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, sore fingers, hands, knees, and stiff hips and legs may be the first thing that comes to mind. There are invisible symptoms however that can be just as troubling. About 75% of patients say they experience fatigue, weakness, and insomnia. Restlessness and waking up at night from pain can lead to sleepless nights having one wake up already tired and dreading the day ahead.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic condition that affects the whole body and not just the joints. Left untreated, it can lead to permanent joint damage such as crooked hands and fingers, nodules on the joints of the fingers and wrist making gripping, grasping, lifting painful and difficult. Patients also report this condition heightens stress levels which can even affect relationships due to limited ability to perform tasks of daily living.
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Patients report fatigue which experts believe is caused by antibodies that circulating through the blood and triggers inflammation.
A troubling cycle is triggered where physical discomfort interferes with sleep. Lack of sleep makes daily activities more difficult to bear. Patients report feeling “dense” in the head, sluggish, or drowsy during the day. This often results in fatigue where an individual is less likely to do daily chores and become sedentary. As we know, a sedentary life further causes weakness which ultimately results in poor balance and inability to walk better or far. In a worst-case scenario, this is another major cause of falling in older adults.
Do not let Rheumatoid Arthritis hold you back, however. There are ways to take care of yourself despite this progressive condition. As I always tell my patients, it is your health. Take charge!
Learn more about lifestyle changes and medical treatments that can boost your energy.
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Simple lifestyle changes can make rheumatoid arthritis easier to deal with.
Self-care can help you manage pain, fatigue, and other symptoms:
- Regular Exercise. Many dislike exercise. How can you motivate yourself to work out when it’s a struggle just to stand up? Remember that physical training provides long-term relief as you strengthen your muscles, extend your range of motion, and brighten your mood.
C. Hand Exercises. Hand movements are very important for daily tasks. We use our hands so much in everything we do. With RA or rheumatoid arthritis, if left alone, finger and hand joints can become very stiff especially early morning upon waking up. These hand exercises can help move the fingers of the hands to alleviate stiffness.
- Healthy eating. Choose foods that have anti-inflammatory effects. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collards, kale, etc. Tomatoes, olive oil are also good to have in your diet. Almonds and walnuts are also known to fight joint pain and inflammation. Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, sardines, mackerel). That also includes most fruits like strawberries, blueberries, oranges, cherries, and others. WHAT TO AVOID: Processed meats, sodas, fried foods, refined carbs, and lard.
- Stay hydrated. Fatigue is a common sign of dehydration. It’s especially important to drink enough water. (Rule of thumb is 8 x 8 rule, eight 8-ounce glasses, which equals about 2 liters, or half a gallon a day. This is called the 8×8 rule and is very easy to remember. when you have a condition like rheumatoid arthritis that can worsen such symptoms.
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- Reorganize your home. Energy can be conserved by making your living space more efficient where you can easily access things when you need them. These are called energy conservation strategies. By making your home and office more user-friendly and accessible, you are able to do your daily tasks with less exertion. Place items that you use frequently within reach. Get a small cart with wheels for moving supplies from one room to another. You can also use your walker with a seat, or a rolling office chair where items can be placed instead of carried. Be creative and innovative within your home environment. 👉👉👉 6 Quick Stress Relief Tips With Reflexology
- Make time for your ZZZ’s. Sleeping more may not eliminate fatigue, but it can help. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet. If you are a music lover, lull yourself to sleep listening to peaceful, meditative type music or instrumentals. Youtube has many collections which can play for hours. If you are the techie type, have Alexa do your music selection.
***Your attitude also plays a major role in how rheumatoid arthritis affects your life.***
See how transforming your outlook can boost your energy levels:
- Lighten up. Treat yourself with compassion. You may need to cut back on your responsibilities so you can protect your health. Focus on your own abilities instead of trying to keep up with others.
- Prepare for setbacks. The road of a person with rheumatoid arthritis is a rollercoaster ride. It is ups and downs. No day is the same as the previous day. Make the most of it. Take it easy on days that you have more pain or fatigue. On good days, make the most of it. Be flexible and accepting of your limitations. Frequent and dramatic fluctuations are typical with rheumatoid arthritis. You’ll probably have easy days and times that are much more challenging. Give yourself permission to rest when you’re feeling under the weather. 👉👉👉4 Easy Tips for Stress Relief
- Avail of support. Even your closest family and friends may find it difficult to understand your fatigue. Look for support groups or online forums where you can meet others who share similar experiences.
There are new and more effective options for treating rheumatoid arthritis that has been introduced during the past two decades. Consult with and follow your doctor’s recommendations to help you to reduce the inflammation that causes fatigue.
Strategies to Consider
- Review and Change your prescription. Definitely have your physician or rheumatologist review your medications. There are now several categories of drugs for rheumatoid arthritis. Discuss the side effects with your doctor and ask about trying a different medication if you experience excessive fatigue.
- Increase mobility. Physical therapy can increase your strength and overall fitness. Your doctor may be able to provide a referral, or you can find someone who specializes in rheumatoid arthritis through the American Physical Therapy Association.
- Manage depression. Rheumatoid arthritis doubles your risk for depression. This is a fact. Let your doctor and loved ones know if you need help. Medication and counseling have a high success rate.
While there is no current cure for rheumatoid arthritis, appropriate self-care and medical treatment can increase the quality of your life. Reduce fatigue so you can feel happier and return to doing the activities you love. Hope this helps! I would love to hear from you!
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Until the next issue!
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