How Can I Get Over My RA Fatigue?

When you feel sluggish from your rheumatoid arthritis (RA), it's time to get savvy about fatigue-busting techniques.

The right approach can vary, depending on your situation. Sometimes, you just need to take a break, but in other instances, it helps to move more, not less.

Exercise

When you're exhausted, it's natural not to be in the mood for exercise. But if you work out anyway, you might feel more energetic. Studies show that aerobic activity -- the kind that makes your heart beat faster -- cuts fatigue in people who have an immune system disorder like RA.

Exercise also strengthens the muscles around your joints, keeps your bones strong, and boosts your mood.

Start with a few minutes of brisk walking. Gradually work up to 30 minutes at least 5 times a week. Swimming or pool exercises are also good options, because the water is easy on your joints.

The Best Way to Rest

Don't stay in bed. It might make you feel more tired.

Instead, take regular rest breaks during day. Find times that fit in with your life. Do you get more done in the morning? Then schedule some rest at noon. Do you need to regain energy before the kids get home from school? Then take a nap shortly before they get home.

Two or three short periods of downtime may give you the boost you need.

Check Your Diet

Little changes can make a big difference. Eat small, healthy meals throughout the day, so you don't feel sluggish.

Go for foods and snacks that include lean protein, whole grains, veggies, or fruit. Try an apple with peanut butter, or some tuna on whole-grain bread.

Is your idea of breakfast a cup of coffee? Add a hard-boiled egg, a cup of yogurt, or a banana to your morning.

Tell Your Doctor

If you've tried everything and still feel wiped out, let your doctor know. He can see what the problem is.

It could be that you have anemia, which happens when you don't have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body.

Anemia can start up because of long-term inflammation from RA or as a side effect of your medicines. Your doctor can check to see if you have it and get you started on treatment.

Some other things may be causing your fatigue, such as:

  • Pain
  • Depression
  • Medication side effects
  • Inflammation
  • Weakness when you lose too much muscle
  • Other medical issues, like an infection
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on December 12, 2018

Sources

SOURCES:

Arthritis Today: "Coping With Fatigue."

Hospital for Special Surgery: "Mastering the Impact of Fatigue."

Hewlett, S. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 2011.  

Arthritis Today: "Exercise as a Fatigue Treatment." 

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