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RA: Tips to Manage Your Fatigue

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Coping Strategies to Relieve RA Fatigue and Weakness continued...

“Don’t over-schedule yourself, even when you’re feeling OK,” Goodman says. “And try to plan busy activities for later in the day, after your body has a chance to warm up.” When you’re tired or in pain, stop what you’re doing and take a break until you feel stronger and more alert.

Stay active. Research is clear: Exercise is a great way to manage your fatigue. It reduces inflammation and pumps up brain chemicals that boost your energy. What’s more, “exercise improves bone health and helps you build muscle, which can protect your joints,” Goodman says. And it lowers stress, which can also tire you out.

That doesn’t mean you have to hit the gym for an hour every day. “Start slow -- even 10 minutes can make a difference -- and try a lot of things until you find an activity you enjoy,” Borenstein says. If there are limits to what your body can do, see a physical therapist, who can tailor a workout plan to your needs.

Rest up and eat wisely. “Aim for 8 hours of sleep a night and try to minimize stress,” says Minh Nguyen, MD. She's a rheumatologist at the Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center in California.

Good food can help, too. While there’s no one diet to ease RA symptoms, “patients who steer clear of processed foods and eat balanced meals tend to feel better and have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight, which eases joint pain and weakness,” Goodman says.

Get help. Your doctor may recommend aids like a splint, physical or occupational therapy, or surgery, Nguyen says.  An occupational therapist can help you make changes at home and work to get through the day more easily.

Meanwhile, look for tools that can help you open a jar or reach for items on a high shelf. Ask friends and family to pitch in on everyday tasks and provide moral support, too -- both can boost your energy on tough days. 

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Reviewed on November 21, 2014

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