Beat Fatigue with Arthritis

How to Beat Arthritis Fatigue

Fatigue is a mysterious and persistent foe when you have arthritis. Learn how to fight back.


Once you recognize possible causes of your fatigue, write them down and discuss with your doctor. The two of you can come up with a comprehensive plan so you have the energy you need. The plan to regain your vigor may include medication and lifestyle changes.

Medications to Treat Causes of Fatigue

A 2017 one published in Current Rheumatology Reports, along with earlier ones, – show that medications used to treat your inflammatory arthritis have little effect on fatigue. But unchecked inflammation and pain caused by arthritis certainly contribute to fatigue. So, your first step in getting your energy back is to get disease activity under control. You will also need to treat any other underlying medical conditions you have that may cause or worsen your fatigue.

Here are a few types of medicine your doctor may prescribe that are focused on treating fatigue.

Anemia medicine. If you have anemia, you may need iron supplements or the hormone epoietin (Epogen, Procrit).

Sleep aids. Sleeping pills may help promote restorative sleep. Newer medications, including eszopiclone (Lunesta), lorazepam (Ativan), zaleplon (Sonata), and zolpidem (Ambien), are less likely to trigger dependence than older sleep medications.

Vitamins. If your nutrition is poor, your doctor may suggest you take a multivitamin or other supplements to fill your nutritional gaps and strengthen your overall health.

Psychoactive medicines. You may benefit from “activating” medications that increase energy. These include some antidepressants, like bupropion (Wellbutrin), and psychostimulants, like modafinil (Provigil).

Lifestyle Changes to Combat Fatigue

Studies, such as several done by Patti Katz, PhD, of the University of California San Francisco show the most effective interventions for fatigue are good lifestyle choices.

Get up and move. Exercise helps with fatigue in many ways. It increases muscle mass, strength, blood circulation and flexibility, all of which will boost energy and reduce pain. In addition, exercise generates endorphins, which are brain chemicals that produce a sense of well-being and vitality – and they can improve nighttime sleep. A 2017 study published in Arthritis Care and Research showed that something as simple as wearing a pedometer and keeping a diary of your daily steps can improve your fatigue levels.

Hydrate. Dehydration can be a hidden source of fatigue. You need at least a half-gallon of fluids (eight 8-ounce glasses) or more a day, depending on your activity level and how hot and dry the weather is.

Eat well. Nourish your body with good, whole foods. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and be sure to get adequate lean protein, low-fat dairy and healthy fats. If you need to lose weight, reduce your portions and limit processed, high-salt, sugary foods. Always start your day with breakfast that includes lean protein and complex carbohydrates to provide long-lasting energy.

Ease your mind. If depression or stress is adding to your fatigue or keeping you awake at night, you might want to see a therapist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, mindfulness-based stress reduction and mind-body exercise like yoga and tai-chi can help calm your thoughts and  boost your energy.

Support your joints. Wearing a brace or using a cane when necessary can help take stress off your joints and the muscles surrounding them, which can help with fatigue.

Maintain good sleep habits.  Sleep hygiene is an important part of getting a good night’s rest. Avoid alcohol, nicotine and caffeine because they can disrupt sleep. Go to bed and get up at about the same time every day. Make your bedroom cool, dark and comfortable. Turn off your computer, cell phone and television. Follow a bedtime ritual to signal your body that it’s time to sleep.

Take a break and some help. Remain active, but rest between activities. Rest allows muscles to refuel for more activity. Spread activities throughout the day and plan strenuous tasks for times when you typically have the most energy. If you don’t have the energy to do it all, learn to ask for help. Get family members to help around the house, for example, or hire a housecleaner to come once every week or two.

It may take some time and detective work to beat your fatigue. Try to stay positive and work with your doctor to find the right combination of treatments to give you back your energy. Remember that each person is unique in what causes their fatigue; likewise, each person is unique in what treatments work for them. 

The Arthritis Foundation is the leading organization 
providing support and funding research to improve the 
lives of individuals with arthritis. You can help!