6 Energy Boosting Tips for Fatigue Caused By Rheumatoid Arthritis

Overview of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Why Does It Cause Fatigue?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that happens when the body’s immune systems start attacking the joint linings by mistake.(1,2,3) One of the characteristic features of rheumatoid arthritis is that it affects joints on both sides of the body, such as both knees, both wrists, or both hands. This symmetry is what sets it apart from other forms of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect the eyes, lungs, heart, nerves, or skin.(4,5,6)

However, rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t only affect your joints. The disease can also leave you feeling completely drained of energy. In fact, fatigue is a common symptom of rheumatoid arthritis.(7,8) But why does rheumatoid arthritis cause fatigue? Antibodies that are responsible for causing the inflammation in rheumatoid arthritis have an impact on your central nervous system as well. Persistently high inflammation levels can lead to severe fatigue.(9)

Rheumatoid arthritis also causes pain, and being in constant pain can leave you feeling zapped of energy by the end of the day. However, when your joints are in pain, it also makes it difficult to sleep, adding more to your fatigue. At the same time, fatigue related to rheumatoid arthritis also makes it challenging to feel refreshed when you wake up in the morning.

When you have rheumatoid arthritis, pain, fatigue, and mood swings can trap you in a vicious cycle. Experts believe that the high levels of inflammation are responsible for all three of these symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.(10,11)

Here are some easy energy-boosting tips for people with rheumatoid arthritis.

6 Energy Boosting Tips for Fatigue Caused By Rheumatoid Arthritis

1. Take a Break

It is essential to take a break from time to time, especially when you have an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis. Taking a break and a simple change of scenery can help you feel refreshed. When you are tired or bored, consider taking a short break. Simply get up and walk to the next room or do some other work for some time. You can even indulge in some simple stretching. If you are working and are worried about getting sidetracked, you can set a timer to let you know when your break is over. It will also be beneficial for you because staying sedentary is not recommended for people with rheumatoid arthritis.(12)

2. Keep Yourself Well Hydrated

Sometimes, rheumatoid arthritis is not the only cause of fatigue. If you are experiencing low energy levels, it could also be a sign that you are dehydrated. Try drinking a glass of water or any other hydrating drinks whenever you are feeling sluggish can help immensely.

If you want to opt for a more nutritious option, you can decide to have beverages that are low in sugar, including unsweetened tea or milk. According to the Arthritis Foundation, having black, green, and white tea are especially helpful in rheumatoid arthritis as these are potent sources of polyphenols that have strong anti-inflammatory effects. Drinking green tea is also known to help preserve bone and cartilage.(13)

3. Practice Deep Breathing

If anxiety and stress are the causes of your fatigue, practicing some deep breathing exercises can help you achieve more focus and a state of calm. To do this:

  1. Begin by sitting in a chair or even on the floor with your back against a wall.
  2. Find a position in which you feel comfortable, and that causes minimal joint pain.
  3. Lengthen your spine, relax your ribs, and also relax the muscles in your jaw and face.
  4. Close your eyes and place one hand on your abdomen or belly.
  5. Now take a deep breath in, and feel your stomach rise.
  6. As you breathe out, you should be able to feel your stomach fall.
  7. Slowly take deep breaths in through your nose and breathe out through the mouth. All this while, you should continue to focus on the rising and falling of your stomach as you breathe.

Practicing this deep breathing exercise for even 10 minutes every day can help you calm down and focus.(14,15)

4. Have a Nutritious Snack

Sometimes, we may not realize it, but our blood sugar levels may be low. Low blood sugar levels can also contribute to fatigue and low energy levels. If you have not eaten for some time, it might be a good idea to have a nutritious snack or even a meal. In such cases, having a combination of complex carbohydrates and proteins can help improve your energy levels without leading up to a sugar crash afterward. For example, having a piece of whole-grain toast with avocado or nut butter, along with a serving of yogurt with fresh berries, might be precisely what you need to boost your energy.

5. Listen To Some Music

Listening to music has been found to not only boost your energy levels but also promote positive thinking, which is very much needed if you are dealing with pain and other symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.(16) According to the Harvard Women’s Hath Watch, listening to music helps ease anxiety and also reduces pain perception in many people.(17) You should consider making a playlist of your favorite songs and listening to them whenever you are feeling tired. Songs that you associated with some positive memories are also a great choice.

6. Exercise Regularly

Exercising regularly, even low-impact exercises can help you strengthen your muscles, keep your weight in check, and also maintain the range of motion you have while living with rheumatoid arthritis. Exercise will also help you sharpen your mental processes and give you a boost throughout the day. Even just 10 minutes of exercise every day can help you feel more focused and alert.(18)

It is possible that you may not have time every day for a complete workout. In such cases, even taking a short walk around the block, spending 5 to 10 minutes on an elliptical machine or stationary bike, or even climbing a few stairs can help a lot. However, if you start experiencing acute joint pain while exercising, it is a sign that you need to stop immediately. If you continue to exercise in pain, it may aggravate your rheumatoid arthritis by causing further damage or increasing the existing joint damage.

Conclusion

Fatigue due to rheumatoid arthritis can make it challenging to focus, do your work, participate in activities you like, and even motivate yourself. The energy-boosting tips described above can help you boost your mood, sharpen your focus, and also increase your energy levels throughout the day. However, it is equally important that you do not do anything without consulting your doctor. It is necessary to follow your doctor’s recommendations for an exercise plan. Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, exercising regularly, sleeping properly at night, and following your doctor’s prescribed treatment plan can help prevent fatigue when you have rheumatoid arthritis.

If you feel that your rheumatoid arthritis medication might be the reason behind your fatigue, talk to your doctor and find out if some changes can be made to your treatment plan.

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References:

  1. Firestein, G.S., 2003. Evolving concepts of rheumatoid arthritis. Nature, 423(6937), pp.356-361.
  2. McInnes, I.B. and Schett, G., 2011. The pathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. New England Journal of Medicine, 365(23), pp.2205-2219.
  3. Majithia, V. and Geraci, S.A., 2007. Rheumatoid arthritis: diagnosis and management. The American journal of medicine, 120(11), pp.936-939.
  4. Bernauer, W., Ficker, L.A., Watson, P.G. and Dart, J.K., 1995. The management of corneal perforations associated with rheumatoid arthritis: an analysis of 32 eyes. Ophthalmology, 102(9), pp.1325-1337.
  5. Tanaka, N., Kim, J.S., Newell, J.D., Brown, K.K., Cool, C.D., Meehan, R., Emoto, T., Matsumoto, T. and Lynch, D.A., 2004. Rheumatoid arthritis–related lung diseases: CT findings. Radiology, 232(1), pp.81-91.
  6. Chakravarty, E.F., Michaud, K. and Wolfe, F., 2005. Skin cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and tumor necrosis factor inhibitors. The Journal of Rheumatology, 32(11), pp.2130-2135.
  7. Belza, B.L., Henke, C.J., Yelin, E.H., Epstein, W.V. and Gilliss, C.L., 1993. Correlates of fatigue in older adults with rheumatoid arthritis. Nursing research.
  8. Hewlett, S., Cockshott, Z., Byron, M., Kitchen, K., Tipler, S., Pope, D. and Hehir, M., 2005. Patients’ perceptions of fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis: overwhelming, uncontrollable, ignored. Arthritis Care & Research, 53(5), pp.697-702.
  9. Katz, P., 2017. Fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis. Current rheumatology reports, 19(5), p.25.
  10. Katz, P., 2017. Causes and consequences of fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis. Current opinion in rheumatology, 29(3), pp.269-276.
  11. Katz, P., 2017. Causes and consequences of fatigue in rheumatoid arthritis. Current opinion in rheumatology, 29(3), pp.269-276.
  12. Thomsen, T., Beyer, N., Aadahl, M., Hetland, M.L., Løppenthin, K., Midtgaard, J. and Esbensen, B.A., 2015. Sedentary behaviour in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: A qualitative study. International journal of qualitative studies on health and well-being, 10(1), p.28578.
  13. Arthritis.org. 2021. [online] Available at: <http://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/arthritis-diet/best-foods-for-arthritis/best-beverages-for-arthritis.php> [Accessed 2 May 2021].
  14. Szabo, A. and Kocsis, Á., 2017. Psychological effects of deep-breathing: the impact of expectancy-priming. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 22(5), pp.564-569.
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