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If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you know what fatigue means. Your friends and family might think you're just tired, but that doesn't come close.

You may not be able to get rid of RA fatigue entirely. But you can prevent or lessen it  and have more energy to enjoy life. Here's how.

Combine Rest and Movement

Rest is key to managing fatigue, but the important thing is to get a balance.

"If you have RA and overexert yourself all day, of course you'll feel bad," says Daniel Wallace, MD, assistant program director of the Rheumatology Fellowship Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "But if you lie in bed all day, you'll also feel bad."

After sitting or lying for too long, your joints will ache as soon as you start to move. Try to combine rest and movement throughout the day.

  • Take breaks to rest. When you exert yourself, take frequent breaks to recharge. Talk to your boss about how you can have rest periods at work. See if you can adjust your schedule and find a quiet spot  -- shut the door if you have an office, find a bench outside, or even sit in your car. 
  • Take breaks to move. When you're sitting for a while -- like at a desk -- stand up, stretch, or walk around every half hour, says Lenore Frost, PhD, clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. Set an alarm to remind yourself to get up if it helps.
  • Exercise. It might sound weird, but exercise can help fatigue. "A little exercise will get those happy hormones going," says Darlene Lee, a nurse practitioner and practice manager at the rheumatology clinic at the University of California in San Francisco. Don't do a whole 30-minute exercise routine at once, Lee says. Start with 5-minute segments and work your way up to 30.
  • Get enough sleep. It's super important. Create good habits, like going to bed at the same time every night and cutting back on caffeine. If you still don't sleep well enough, talk to your doctor.  

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