Understanding Fatigue in Arthritis: Why Does Arthritis Make You Tired?

November 2023

Living with arthritis goes beyond managing joint pain; it often involves living with a range of symptoms that can impact overall wellbeing.

One common and often overlooked symptom is fatigue.

Feeling tired or exhausted is a common symptom among people with arthritis, and it can significantly affect daily life.

In this article, we explore the connection between arthritis and fatigue, examining why this link exists and offering insights into managing and coping with fatigue associated with arthritis.

The Arthritis-Fatigue Connection:

#1. Inflammation and Immune System:

Arthritis is characterised by inflammation in the joints, which can trigger an immune response. Chronic inflammation and an overactive immune system can lead to fatigue as the body works tirelessly to fight perceived threats.

#2. Pain and Sleep Disruption:

Persistent pain associated with arthritis often disrupts sleep patterns. Poor or insufficient sleep contributes to fatigue, leaving people with arthritis feeling drained and lacking energy.

#3. Medication Side Effects

Some medications prescribed for arthritis management may have fatigue as a side effect. It's crucial to discuss medication-related fatigue with your healthcare provider to explore potential alternatives or adjustments.

#4. Chronic Stress:

Living with a chronic condition like arthritis can be mentally and emotionally taxing. The stress associated with managing symptoms, daily challenges, and potential lifestyle adjustments can contribute to fatigue.

#5. Anaemia:

Certain forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may be associated with anemia, a condition characterised by a shortage of red blood cells. Anaemia can lead to fatigue due to reduced oxygen-carrying capacity in the blood.

Managing Fatigue in Arthritis:

#1. Prioritise Sleep Quality:

  • Establish a consistent sleep routine and create a comfortable sleep environment.
  • Consider discussing sleep issues with your healthcare provider for personalised advice.

#2. Manage Pain Effectively:

  • Addressing pain through medication, physical therapy, or other strategies can improve sleep quality and reduce fatigue.

#3. Stay Active:

  • Engage in regular, gentle exercise to improve overall fitness and combat fatigue.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional for guidance on suitable exercises for your condition.

#4. Balanced Diet:

  • Ensure your diet provides essential nutrients, as nutritional deficiencies can contribute to fatigue.
  • Stay hydrated and consider consulting a dietitian for personalised dietary advice.

#5. Stress Management:

  • Organise your schedule to reduce time pressures and avoid over committing. Break tasks into manageable chunks to prevent feeling overwhelmed.
  • Incorporate stress-reduction techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or yoga into your daily routine.
  • Seek support from mental health professionals or support groups to manage the emotional impact of arthritis

If you need a good smartphone app, we have listed 5 mindfulness apps & resources that can be beneficial for managing stress:

  • Smiling Mind
  • Headspace
  • Calm
  • Stop, breathe & think
  • Simply being

#6. Regular Check-ups:

  • Maintain regular follow-ups with your healthcare provider to monitor arthritis symptoms, adjust medications if necessary, and address any emerging health concerns.
  • Also seek support from friends and family if you are going through a hard time.  For more information, read our article on Support for Mental Well being.

When to Seek Medical Advice:
If fatigue is persistent, severe, or significantly impacting your daily life, it's crucial to consult with your healthcare provider.

Fatigue can be a complex symptom with various potential causes, and a comprehensive medical evaluation can help identify and address contributing factors.

Fatigue is a common and often underestimated aspect of living with arthritis.

Understanding the underlying reasons for arthritis-related fatigue and adopting helpful strategies for managing it are essential steps toward improving overall quality of life.

By addressing the factors contributing to fatigue and seeking support from healthcare professionals, people with arthritis can improve their wellbeing and regain control over their energy levels.

How Arthritis Queensland can help


Talk with a peer-mentor in our free Arthritis Assist service.