Joints pain and fatigue

While you probably know whether a bad cold or that new barre class spurred your aching joints or muscles, you might be wondering how totally different things can provoke similar types of pain.

The answer, usually, is through inflammation.

“There’s a process of inflammation that occurs when the body has an infection, and some of the inflammatory mediators that we use to fight the infection cause fever and body aches,” says Erich Voigt, MD, an otolaryngologist at NYU Langone Health.

But a slew of other behaviors and conditions can amp up your body’s inflammatory responses—like repetitive motion and stress—triggering body aches in the process, he notes. So, why exactly do different parts of your body throb and twinge? Beyond getting older, here is a closer look at the most common reasons for your body aches, why your body responds with pain in the first place, and how to find relief.

Cold and flu season is in full swing

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“The body aches related to an infection such as pharyngitis (sore throat) or flu are related to the immune system’s response to the infection,” says Stephen Parodi, MD, infectious disease expert at Kaiser Permanente. “Our body releases certain chemicals, including ones called interferons, which help fight off the infection, but also cause body aches.” What’s more, your immune system is channeling most of your body’s energy into fighting off the infection, causing you to feel super tired.

✖️Ease the aches: Take it slow and get some rest. Dr. Parodi suggests over-the-counter medications for pain relief, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen, especially if you have the flu.

“Flu tends to make people sicker than regular cold viruses, and the body aches and fevers can be higher with flu. That’s why it is so important to get vaccinated and prevent the infection altogether,” he says.

You might have mononucleosis

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Typically caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), mono is a type of infection common among teenagers and young adults, usually transmitted through saliva. The symptoms of mono include extreme fatigue, sore throat, fever, and swollen lymph nodes. And because it’s infectious, like pharyngitis and flu, your immune system will have a similar inflammatory response, resulting in body aches.

✖️Ease the aches: Getting some rest, drinking lots of fluids, and taking some OTC meds for fever and pain should help you find relief, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There’s no specific treatment plan for mono, since antibiotics can’t zap viral infections. You should still touch base with your doc to get an official diagnosis, who will be able to provide prescription meds if another infection occurs at the same time, like strep.

You went too hard during your workout

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Trying a new type of exercise (or even just working a muscle group you’ve ignored for a while) can make you feel sore post-sweat. That muscle soreness, specifically the delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) you feel a day or two after a hard workout, is the result of small tears in your tissues, according to a study published in Clinics in Sports Medicine. This results in inflammation, which causes that can’t-sit-down-properly feeling in your legs after you’ve done one too many squats.

✖️Ease the aches: It’s nothing to be worried about; DOMS is indicative of your muscles adapting to a new activity so they can do it again. Your muscles will heal within a few days, but doing a few foam-roller exercises during your recovery period can help speed the process up. If you like a deeper pressure, try a firm foam roller like this one from Amazon. If you rather go with gentle relief, try a softer one like this one from OPTP.

You’re using one part of your body over and over

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When you repeatedly use just one part of your body—whether while working out or typing at work—a more focused body ache and concentrated pain can take the form of a repetitive motion injury. A common example? Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Doing the same motion repeatedly can cause muscles, ligaments, and tendons to become swollen and inflamed, which causes the ache. In addition to aches, you may notice a lack of strength and reduced range of motion in the affected area.

✖️Ease the aches: Strengthening exercises through physical therapy, wearing braces to keep the area stable, and occupational therapy may be needed to get the body part functioning normally again.

You feel too stressed

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Psychological stress can have physical manifestations, from headaches to jaw pain to lower back pain. That’s because when you’re stressed, your body pumps out the hormone cortisol. While that’s not a problem in the short-term, a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association concludes that chronic stress can amp up inflammation, causing muscle breakdown, pain, and fatigue, among other symptoms. Plus, your body becomes more susceptible to infection when you can’t chill out.

✖️Ease the aches: Take some time each day to do something that helps you unwind from your daily stressors. Just breathing deeply for a few minutes (or even meditating), taking a walk during your lunch break, or a hot bath after work can help rejuvenate your body and mind.

You’re not sleeping soundly

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You know you need sleep to keep feeling alert, but you might not realize just how much your body really depends on it to remain ache-free. In a study published in Arthritis & Rheumatology, researchers found the number one predictor of widespread pain, especially among adults over 50, is non-restorative sleep, or disruptive sleep (typically characterized by having trouble falling asleep or insomnia, waking in the middle of the night, or feeling excessively tired throughout the day).

✖️Ease the aches: Your musculoskeletal system needs at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night to repair itself daily. Can’t seem to snooze soundly? These 100 ways to sleep better every night are a good place to start.

A tick infected you with Lyme disease

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Yep, something as tiny as a tick can be responsible for your body aches. Blacklegged ticks infected with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, to be exact. If you catch it early enough, muscle and joint aches won’t become severe, but they are early indicators of Lyme disease. Other signs of Lyme disease include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, and a bullseye-shaped rash. Diagnosis mainly takes two things into consideration: the presence of these symptoms and the possibility of your exposure to ticks. About 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC annually, but researchers estimate the true number of cases each year in the US is closer to 329,000.

✖️Ease the aches: If you suspect you have Lyme, seek medical treatment ASAP. The symptoms will only become more severe over time and can lead to complications like heart problems and severe joint pain. If you test positive for Lyme, your doc will prescribe antibiotics to rid your body of the infection.

You might have arthritis

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You don’t have to be old to have arthritis, which encompasses more than 100 different conditions. Inflammatory arthritis—which includes rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis—affects your entire body since they’re autoimmune diseases, meaning your immune system goes a bit haywire and attacks healthy cells, spurring inflammation in the process. It’s characterized by pain and stiffness after periods of inactivity, or by morning stiffness that lasts over an hour. You may also notice pain, swelling, and tenderness around your joints, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

✖️Ease the aches: First, you should touch base with your doc to pin down which specific disease could be wreaking havoc on your joints. Your treatment will be depend on the diagnosis, but it’s likely your doc will recommend lifestyle changes (both physical and emotional—say, tweaking your diet or suggesting stress management tips). Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin and ibuprofen, along with disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs may also be recommended to relieve pain and prevent further damage to your body.

You could be dealing with fibromyalgia

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Widely misunderstood but fairly common, fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain in your bones, muscles, or ligaments—which affects about 10 million Americans, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association. Your brain processes pain signals abnormally, heightening your body’s experience of pain. That pain, which can develop over time or be triggered by something like surgery or infection, varies in intensity and will migrate all over the body. Most people with fibromyalgia (the bulk of whom are women) also experience chronic fatigue.

✖️Ease the aches: If a blood test confirms that you’re suffering from fibromyalgia, you’ll work with your doctor to tailor a treatment plan to your lifestyle. Medications like over-the-counter pain relievers, antidepressants (to help you relax and sleep) and anti-seizure drugs (also to ease pain) may be your first course of action, according to the Mayo Clinic. From there, physical or occupational therapy may be needed, as well as counseling if you struggle with stress.

Your body might be fighting lupus

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Lupus is tricky to diagnose, but most people with this autoimmune disease experience achy joints and swelling. The Lupus Foundation of America estimates at least 1.5 million people are living with lupus in the United States. Symptoms may come and go, and can affect different organs in different people. A few other major signs to look out for include extreme fatigue, headaches, fever, a butterfly-shaped rash across the cheeks and nose, hair loss, and Raynaud’s phenomenon (a condition in which your fingers, and sometimes your toes, feel severely cold or even change color). While lupus pain typically occurs on both sides of the body at once, it tends to be more manageable than something like rheumatoid arthritis.

✖️Ease the aches: Depending on your body’s specific reaction to the disease, your doctor may recommend a variety of medications to help you manage your symptoms, including NSAIDs (to treat pain and swelling), antimalarial drugs (to reduce flare ups), corticosteroids (to fight inflammation), immunosuppressants (to keep your immune system under control in very severe cases), or biologics (to treat various symptoms).

Anisa Arsenault Contributor Anisa Arsenault is a New York City-based writer and editor covering health, lifestyle, and parenting news.

Heart attacks in women

Updated: December 16, 2019Published: July, 2004

Although hard-to-read heart attacks happen to both men and women, they are more common in women. One reason for this is that men’s symptoms initially set the standard for recognizing heart trouble. Now a growing body of research shows that women can experience heart attacks differently than men.

Understanding sex differences in heart disease is important. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Although it mostly affects older women, it isn’t rare in younger women. One in 10 of all women who die from heart disease or a stroke are under age 65, and this age group accounts for one-third of heart- or stroke-related hospitalizations. Even so, younger women and their doctors don’t necessarily suspect a heart attack even when all the signs are there.

In a survey of more than 500 women who survived heart attacks, 95% of them said they noticed that something wasn’t right in the month or so before their heart attacks. Two most common early warning signs were fatigue and disturbed sleep. Some women, for example, said they were so tired they couldn’t make a bed without resting.

Chest pain, a common early warning sign of heart trouble for men, was further down the list for these women. Those who did have it tended to describe it as pressure, aching, or tightness in the chest, not pain.

Even when their heart attacks were under way, only about one-third of the women in this study experienced the “classic” symptom of chest pain. Instead, shortness of breath, weakness and fatigue, a clammy sweat, dizziness, and nausea topped the list.

One take-home message is that some women may get an early warning of an impending heart attack in the form of excessive tiredness, disturbed sleep, or shortness of breath. Paying attention to these symptoms and getting prompt diagnosis and treatment just might stave off a full-blown heart attack. Some men also have early warning signals, with chest pain being the most common.

The other message is that women and their doctors need to think beyond chest pain when it comes to what women experience as a heart attack blossoms. Instead of writing off shortness of breath, fatigue, cold sweat, dizziness, and nausea as signs of something that will pass, everyone needs to give these symptoms a second look.

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Dealing with Flu: Stay Home or See a Doctor?

The flu is miserable. If you’ve ever had it, you know how brutal it can be: the headache, the fever, the chills.

But sometimes, it’s more than miserable—it’s a medical emergency.

Most people recover from the flu at home, but some need a doctor’s care. So how do you know whether to seek help?

First, check your symptoms against this list of flu symptoms:

  • Fever (not always present)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

Recovering at Home

If your symptoms are mild and you choose to recover at home, don’t go to work or other public places where you can pass the flu to others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you need to stay home at least 24 hours after you have become fever-free without the aid of medicine.

While you’re at home, make sure to rest and drink a lot of fluids. The following supplies can help you minimize the spread of flu and feel better:

  • Nonprescription pain relievers, fever reducers, decongestants, anti-diarrheal medication and cough drops
  • Alcohol–based hand sanitizer
  • Thermometer
  • Facial tissues
  • Canned or instant soups (low-sodium is better)
  • Toilet paper
  • Laundry detergent (you’re going to want to wash those blankets you’re using)
  • Household cleaners (make sure to wipe down surfaces, including door handles)
  • Soap (wash your hands a lot and encourage anyone you live with to do the same)

Seeing a Doctor

If your symptoms are moderate to severe or you’re at higher risk of developing flu-related complications, you may want to see your doctor. People at higher risk include children younger than 5 and adults 65 and older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes, and people with chronic illnesses such as asthma, lung disease and heart disease.

Your doctor will assess your symptoms and may prescribe an . If you can’t see your doctor promptly or the office is closed, you can visit an urgent care clinic to be treated for flu.

When Flu Becomes an Emergency

Some people who get the flu get very sick, and it can sometimes be fatal. Thousands of people each year die of flu-related complications. Seek immediate emergency medical attention—call 911—if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or stomach
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Have the flu and need to see a doctor? UNC Health Care offers urgent care clinic locations in Wake County and Orange County. Or find a primary care doctor near you.

A 35-Year-Old Woman With Fatigue and Joint Pain

Editor’s Note: The Case Challenge series includes difficult-to-diagnose conditions, some of which are not frequently encountered by most clinicians but are nonetheless important to accurately recognize. Test your diagnostic and treatment skills using the following patient scenario and corresponding questions. If you have a case that you would like to suggest for a future Case Challenge, please contact us.

In response to user comments, this case was updated with additional information to clarify the diagnostic approach.

Background

A 35-year-old-woman presents with a 10-month history of fatigue that has progressively worsened to the point that it is limiting her ability to work as a waitress. It is accompanied by muscle stiffness, joint pain, recurrent headaches, and an inability to concentrate. Adequate rest and over-the-counter analgesics have failed to relieve her symptoms, and she feels tired all the time. She snores at night and has difficulty staying asleep.

She has no history of tick bite or skin rash, and the region has low incidence of tick-borne illnesses. She reports no history of alcohol or drug abuse but did have multiple unprotected sexual encounters in the past 5 years. She denies any suicidal or homicidal ideation. She has visited multiple physicians in the last few months with the same symptoms and is not satisfied with the work-up done so far. She is stressed by her symptoms and concerned that she might lose her job. Her medical history is significant for hyperlipidemia, and she has taken atorvastatin (40 mg daily) for the past year.

Symptoms of ME/CFS

On This Page

  • Primary Symptoms
  • Other Common Symptoms

Primary Symptoms

Also called “core” symptoms, three primary symptoms are required for diagnosis:

  • Greatly lowered ability to do activities that were usual before the illness. This drop in activity level occurs along with fatigue and must last six months or longer. People with ME/CFS have fatigue that is very different from just being tired. The fatigue of ME/CFS:
    • Can be severe.
    • Is not a result of unusually difficult activity.
    • Is not relieved by sleep or rest.
    • Was not a problem before becoming ill (not life-long).
  • Worsening of ME/CFS symptoms after physical or mental activity that would not have caused a problem before illness. This is known as post-exertional malaise (PEM). People with ME/CFS often describe this experience as a “crash,” “relapse,” or “collapse.” During PEM, any ME/CFS symptoms may get worse or first appear, including difficulty thinking, problems sleeping, sore throat, headaches, feeling dizzy, or severe tiredness. It may take days, weeks, or longer to recover from a crash. Sometimes patients may be house-bound or even completely bed-bound during crashes. People with ME/CFS may not be able to predict what will cause a crash or how long it will last. As examples:
    • Attending a child’s school event may leave someone house-bound for a couple of days and not able to do needed tasks, like laundry.
    • Shopping at the grocery store may cause a physical crash that requires a nap in the car before driving home or a call for a ride home.
    • Taking a shower may leave someone with ME/CFS bed-bound and unable to do anything for days.
    • Keeping up with work may lead to spending evenings and weekends recovering from the effort.

  • Sleep problems. People with ME/CFS may not feel better or less tired, even after a full night of sleep. Some people with ME/CFS may have problems falling asleep or staying asleep.

In addition to these core symptoms, one of the following two symptoms is required for diagnosis:

  • Problems with thinking and memory. Most people with ME/CFS have trouble thinking quickly, remembering things, and paying attention to details. Patients often say they have “brain fog” to describe this problem because they feel “stuck in a fog” and not able to think clearly.
  • Worsening of symptoms while standing or sitting upright. This is called orthostatic intolerance. People with ME/CFS may be lightheaded, dizzy, weak, or faint while standing or sitting up. They may have vision changes like blurring or seeing spots.

Other Common Symptoms

Many but not all people with ME/CFS have other symptoms.

Pain is very common in people with ME/CFS. The type of pain, where it occurs, and how bad it is varies a lot. The pain people with ME/CFS feel is not caused by an injury. The most common types of pain in ME/CFS are:

  • Muscle pain and aches
  • Joint pain without swelling or redness
  • Headaches, either new or worsening

Some people with ME/CFS may also have:

  • Tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpits
  • A sore throat that happens often
  • Digestive issues, like irritable bowel syndrome
  • Chills and night sweats
  • Allergies and sensitivities to foods, odors, chemicals, light, or noise
  • Muscle weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat

Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only. The information provided on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Fatigue

Overview

This information is for people who have fatigue due to any type of arthritis and for their families and friends. It provides basic information about fatigue as well as tips on how to manage it.

What is fatigue?

Fatigue is the feeling of extreme tiredness or exhaustion often involving muscle weakness that can result in difficulty performing tasks. It has been compared to the tired and achy feeling one has when experiencing a bout with the flu.

Fatigue is a frequent and troubling symptom of many types of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases such as lupus. It may be due to many causes such as illness, depression, joint and muscle pain, stress, overextending yourself, poor sleep, anemia or a lack of physical activity.

The symptoms of fatigue vary from person to person. They may last a long time or only a short time. They may strike at any time or may be predictable.

There are many things you can do to help decrease the effects of fatigue. Knowing how it affects you will help you manage it better.

Fatigue and arthritis

Fatigue is problematic especially for those people with chronic conditions like arthritis. If fatigue is of new onset is getting significantly worse or interferes with activities of daily living it would be valuable to see a health provider. There are many causes of fatigue and a physician or nurse practitioner will be able to help diagnose and treat the cause(s) of your fatigue.

How does fatigue make you feel?

Fatigue affects everyone differently. For instance it may make you feel:

  • Very tired with no energy. All you want to do is sleep. Some people who experience fatigue associated with their arthritis or lupus say “When I’m fatigued everything is too great an effort. Everyday tasks become too much to do.”
  • Increased pain. Fatigue often comes along with pain. One person with arthritis said “Pain itself is very fatiguing. When I’m tired I can’t cope as well with the pain.”
  • A loss of control. Sometimes fatigue may make you feel helpless. You may feel you have little control over life.
  • A loss of concentration. Decisions become more difficult. It’s as if your mind is tired too.
  • Irritable. It may be difficult to be pleasant or happy when you’re constantly tired. This may put a strain on your relationships. One person with arthritis commented “I’m grouchy when I’m fatigued and I just don’t care.”

Fatigue may be accompanied by pain irritability and/or loss of energy concentration or sense of control.

Causes

Factors causing fatigue

There are many causes of fatigue.

Some of the reasons people get fatigued are because of arthritis or another chronic condition depression anemia thyroid problems nutritional problems lack of adequate sleep or deconditioning. Treating these conditions often leads to a reduction or elimination of fatigue.

Causes differ from person to person. Fatigue may be caused by one factor or it may be caused by several factors.

Physical causes

Disease

Fatigue may occur with many types of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases especially those that affect the whole body (muscles skin blood organs as well as joints). These include rheumatoid arthritis which can cause joint pain and swelling; lupus which can cause a skin rash joint pain and problems with other organs; and fibromyalgia which can cause extreme muscle aches and pain.

The process of inflammation can cause pain and swelling and also may cause fatigue. If you experience a “flare or period of worsening joint inflammation, you’re likely to become more fatigued.

Pain

If you have joint pain, you may use body positions that are less painful to your joints. However, these positions can put extra stress on your joints and muscles. This can lead to fatigue.

The physical and emotional energy you use trying to deal with pain can make you feel fatigued. Pain also may lead to fatigue by causing you to lose sleep or preventing you from really sleeping well.

Anemia

Several types of arthritis may be associated with anemia. This is a problem in the blood. It is a decrease of a key ingredient in your body’s energy cycle. Anemia makes you feel tired. It cannot be corrected just by taking iron pills.

Being less active

You may not feel like doing much if you’re in pain, feeling depressed, or if every task is a major effort. When you feel this way, for example, you may do less work around your house or yard. But if you don’t get enough physical activity, your muscles will get weaker and feel tired most of the time.

Other health problems

Health problems of the heart, lung, and thyroid also may make you feel very tired.

Emotional causes

Living with any type of arthritis day after day can be emotionally draining. The following types of emotional stress can lead to fatigue:

Depression

The stress of an illness may make you feel sad or blue. You don’t feel like doing anything going anywhere or being with friends and family. These feelings can make you feel tired. Being tired all the time in turn can contribute to depression. It’s a cycle that at times can be difficult to escape.

Overextending yourself

“Most of my fatigue comes from overdoing some people say. After all my years of living with arthritis I still find it hard to pace myself. The fatigue is always there in varying degrees. Sometimes it is difficult to know when I’ve reached my limit. I don’t always listen to the signals of pain and fatigue. When I feel good I push myself too hard.”

Do you feel the same way? If you answer “Yes this may be one cause of your fatigue. It’s natural to want to keep up with your regular activities. But with your arthritis, this may not always be possible.

Trying to hide your illness from others

Some people don’t want others to know they have arthritis. They push themselves to do the same things, at the same pace, that people without arthritis do. This usually results in having to pay for it” later.

Environmental causes

Features of the environment (your surroundings) may add to your fatigue. Loud noises and warmer temperatures may be tiring. For the person with arthritis uncomfortable furniture lots of stairs and long waits may be very tiring.

Identifying causes

Think back to the last time you were fatigued. In the following list note the things you think add to your fatigue.

  • arthritis flare
  • depression
  • pain
  • anemia
  • muscle weakness
  • not enough exercise or activity
  • emotional stress
  • not eating properly
  • not enough sleep
  • lack of quality sleep
  • overdoing daily tasks
  • holidays

Managing fatigue

Analyze your fatigue

Because there are many causes of fatigue you may need to use more than one method to manage it.

What adds to your fatigue? At what time of day does your fatigue start? What helps decrease your fatigue? Listen to your body’s signals telling you it needs to rest. Learn to pace yourself so you won’t become too tired.

Analyze your fatigue

Because there are many causes of fatigue you may need to use more than one method to manage it.

What adds to your fatigue? At what time of day does your fatigue start? What helps decrease your fatigue? Listen to your body’s signals telling you it needs to rest. Learn to pace yourself so you won’t become too tired.

Be aware of body positions

  • Change the way you do activities so that you don’t put too much stress on your joints.
  • Maintain good posture. Poor posture (slouching) can stress your muscles and lead to fatigue.

Balance rest and activity

  • Learn your body’s signs of getting tired. Take breaks during or between tasks before you get too tired.
  • Pace yourself during the day. Do a heavy task then a light task then another heavy task and so on. Do the most difficult things when you’re feeling your best. If you pace yourself you probably can work more than if you work straight through until you’re worn out.
  • When your disease is more active take longer and more frequent rest breaks.
  • Pace yourself from day to day. Allow plenty of time to finish the things you start so you won’t feel rushed. Don’t try to do too much at one time.

Make your work easier

  • Learn your body’s signs of getting tired. Take breaks during or between tasks before you get too tired.
  • Pace yourself during the day. Do a heavy task then a light task then another heavy task and so on. Do the most difficult things when you’re feeling your best. If you pace yourself you probably can work more than if you work straight through until you’re worn out.
  • When your disease is more active take longer and more frequent rest breaks.
  • Pace yourself from day to day. Allow plenty of time to finish the things you start so you won’t feel rushed. Don’t try to do too much at one time.

Make your work easier

  • Plan ahead. Look at all the tasks you do both at home and at work during a normal day and week. Eliminate the ones that are not necessary. Delegate some of the others. Make a schedule for each day the night before or in the morning. Think about what each task involves in terms of the amount of time it requires and how tiring it is. Make an action plan with this in mind. Schedule rest breaks before you begin.
  • Combine chores and errands so you can get more done with less effort. Create shortcuts. For example you can save time and energy by preparing several meals in advance. If you want to serve more complex meals choose a day when you have more time and are feeling well.
  • Sit when you work if you can. If you can’t take short rest breaks as often as possible. Practice relaxation techniques at your desk.
  • Use labor-saving devices such as an electric garage door opener a microwave oven or a food processor.
  • Use self-help devices such as tools with enlarged handles jar openers or “reachers”–long-handled devices that help you reach high places. These reduce stress on your joints and can make difficult tasks easier.
  • Organize work areas so you can get more done with less energy. Arrange your desk or work space using inexpensive storage bins. Remove unnecessary items from your briefcase to lighten the load between home and work. Keep equipment needed for a particular task together in one area. As a general rule keep items you use most often nearest to your work area and less-used items further away. If you are writing a report assemble all the information needed before you begin. If you are baking store mixing bowls sifter measuring cups and spoons in one place. If you are doing housework keep cleaning supplies in several places: kitchen and bathroom upstairs and downstairs.

Get enough sleep

Getting a good night’s sleep restores your energy and helps you cope with pain. It also gives your joints a chance to rest. Only you know how much sleep your body needs. Get into the habit of listening to your body. For example if you feel tired after lunch every day take a rest break or brief nap. This “power nap” is becoming more accepted in the general business community. It could be all you need to restore your energy and lift your spirits.

Exercise

Follow an exercise program designed by your doctor or physical therapist. The right type and right amount of exercise helps keep your muscles strong bones healthy and joints usable. A good exercise program also helps you keep or restore joint flexibility. Exercise can improve your sense of well-being and may result in overall increased energy.

Keep in mind that when you first start exercising your heart will beat faster you’ll breathe faster and your muscles may feel tense. You may feel more tired at night but awake feeling refreshed in the morning. These are normal reactions to exercise that mean your body is adapting and getting into shape. You’ll know you’ve done too much if you have joint or muscle pain that continues for more than two hours after exercising or if your pain or fatigue is worse the next day. Next time decrease the number of times you do each exercise or do them more gently. If this doesn’t help ask your physical therapist about changing the exercise.

Follow your treatment plan

Fatigue may be a sign of increased disease activity or inflammation. Make sure you follow the treatment plan you and your health care provider have designed. Don’t skip medications on days you feel good. This can backfire and lead to increased symptoms. Report any increasing fatigue or changes in general health to your health care provider so appropriate measures can be taken.

Ask for help

Ask for help when you need it! Family friends and co-workers would rather help you than have you overextend yourself trigger a flare and be confined to bed. Below are some people who can help you manage your fatigue.

Your health care providers

These include your doctor and nurse. They also may include an occupational therapist a physical therapist a social worker and a psychologist. Show your fatigue management plan to members of the team. They may be able to refer you to other resources.

Support groups

Sharing your feelings with a group can help you cope with arthritis. Support groups can help you feel understood and can give you new ideas to help cope with problems. People who attend groups often comment “It’s nice to know I’m not alone. Listening to others and helping them helps me feel better.” Groups may be run by professionals or they may be self-help groups led by people with arthritis. Some groups focus on specific topics. Others focus on the special concerns of the group members. Contact your local Arthritis Foundation chapter or ask your health care provider about local groups for people with arthritis. Sometimes you can better help yourself with the help of others like you.

Counselors

Any major change in your life such as an illness or continual problems such as fatigue or pain may make you feel depressed angry helpless or even hopeless. Some people feel so bad that they cannot sleep or eat. If you cannot get yourself going therapy or counseling may help you get through these problems.

Some people are afraid to admit they need help. They believe others will think they are crazy if they talk to someone about their problems. It’s smart to get help when you’re forced to live with a difficult problem such as chronic pain and fatigue. If you are having symptoms of depression–poor sleep change in appetite crying sad thoughts–be sure to talk with your health care provider.

Coping

Coping methods

Fatigue can affect all parts of your life but there are many things you can do to cope with it.

You can better cope with fatigue by pacing yourself listening to your body’s signals asking for assistance making back-up plans and working in partnership with your health care providers. If the first methods you try do not work try other methods. The most effective way to manage fatigue may be to use a combination of these methods:

  • Follow the treatment plan you and your health care provider agree upon. Share details with your family so they can better understand how you’re doing.
  • Prepare for the ups and downs of arthritis. Plan other activities schedules or time for extra rest if you’re feeling tired.
  • Practice ways to save your energy.
  • Use your fatigue as a signal. This will help control it.
  • Remember that depression, pain and fatigue are closely connected. Solving one of these problems can help you reduce the effects of the others.
  • Pace your daily tasks. Break down long-term goals into small manageable steps that can be finished in a short time.
  • If you keep a journal write about all aspects of your fatigue rate your fatigue on a daily basis from (0) no fatigue to (10) severe fatigue and monitor if the fatigue changes over time.
  • Set a goal of doing one thing a day that may require a bit of activity. Try walking around the block once doing the TV Sit and Be Fit program clean one drawer out in your desk etc. It is likely that you will feel better when you get one thing accomplished and you will be challenged to do it again the next day.
  • Ask for help from family friends and co-workers.
  • Work in partnership with health care providers. You can do this by:
    • learning all you can about your arthritis
    • following through with treatment
    • reporting your progress and setbacks to your health care team
    • becoming a self-manager
    • keeping a positive attitude

Asking questions

Asking questions and finding out as much as you can about your type of arthritis and its treatment is important. Talk over your concerns with your health care provider. If you still need more information for if you have difficulty talking to your doctors ask the nurse physical therapist occupational therapist doctor or social worker to help you find answers to your questions.

Credits

Some of this material may also be available in an Arthritis Foundation brochure. Contact the Washington/Alaska Chapter Helpline: (800) 542-0295. If dialing from outside of WA and AK contact the National Helpline: (800) 283-7800.

Adapted from the pamphlet originally prepared for the Arthritis Foundation. Edited by Frederick A. Matsen III M.D. and Basia Belza Ph.D. RN. This material is protected by copyright.

Whether you overdid it on the tennis courts or have been texting and typing way too much, there are many reasons why one or more of your joints might be achy. When the cause of your discomfort is that obvious, there’s usually no reason to panic (though you should still see a doctor if it doesn’t go away). But what if your joints hurt and you have no idea why? Or you also have other weird symptoms you can’t explain?

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In rare instances, your joint pain might be a signal that something pretty serious is going on, such as a sexually transmitted disease or an autoimmune disorder. Here’s a look at some of the scary conditions that could be making you sore.

Infectious (septic) arthritis

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If you get a cut or puncture wound and don’t clean it well, “a nearby joint can get infected with common bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus or Streptococcus,” says Orrin Troum, MD, a rheumatologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA. You’ll notice intense swelling and pain in the area, and fever and chills could follow. (Don’t ignore these 4 signs of a staph infection.)

Knees are the most commonly affected joint, but hips, ankles, and wrists are also likely targets. You might need IV antibiotics, and your doctor might need to drain fluid from the infected joint. Left untreated, septic arthritis can lead to full-body sepsis, which can be fatal.

MORE: The 10 Most Painful Conditions

Gout

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Sorry, Paleo devotees. Too much protein can be hard on your joints. “If you eat too much protein, your body produces a lot of uric acid and can’t excrete all of it from your body,” explains Luga Podesta, MD, director of sports medicine at St. Charles Orthopedics in New York. “This causes an intense inflammatory reaction.” It’s called gout, and it’s one of the most painful types of arthritis you can experience. Symptoms of gout like heat, swelling, redness, and hard-to-ignore pain commonly appear first in your big toe, then spread to other joints.

Protein overload isn’t the only risk factor. Drinking too much alcohol or sugary drinks, getting dehydrated, or taking certain types of medicines (like beta-blockers) can also bring on a bout of gout. Carrying too much weight puts you at risk as well.

Lyme disease

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Every year, an estimated 30,000 people are bitten by a tick and come down with this disease. “The tick latches onto your skin to suck blood out of your body, but its head has an infection that gets into your bloodstream,” Podesta explains. Early symptoms include fatigue, fever, headache, and in many cases, a bull’s-eye rash. “Still, it can be difficult to diagnose if you’re not in an area endemic to ticks,” says Podesta. (Here’s what it’s like to live with Lyme disease.)

If you don’t figure out that you have Lyme disease so you can treat it, the bacteria can spread to your joints, especially your knees. You might also develop neck stiffness and sore hands and feet. Over time, your heart and nervous system may be affected as well.

Lupus

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This autoimmune disorder “can wreck all your joints if left untreated,” says Troum. People with lupus have an overactive immune system that can mistakenly target joints, as well as skin, blood, kidneys, and other organs. Along with swollen, painful joints, you may develop a butterfly-shaped rash across your cheeks, but symptoms are different for everyone. Hair loss, trouble breathing, memory problems, mouth sores, and dry eyes and mouth can also be signs of lupus.

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Gonorrhea

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This sexually transmitted disease (STD) doesn’t just affect your genitals; it can also wreak havoc on your joints, as it causes a painful condition called gonococcal arthritis. It affects women more than men and, surprisingly, is most common among sexually active teen girls.

If you have it, you may develop one hot, red, swollen joint (though some people end up with several painful large joints), along with other STD symptoms, says Troum. Those might include a burning sensation when you urinate, as well as penis discharge or increased vaginal discharge.

Rheumatoid arthritis

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We hear about arthritis all the time, so its inclusion on this list might not come as a surprise. But rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is different than the wear-and-tear kind (osteoarthritis) that commonly develops with age.

RA is an autoimmune disorder, and it disproportionally targets women: Of the more than 1.3 million people who have it, 75% are female. “It’s worrisome to see in young patients,” says Troum, who says he’s seen new mothers with such bad inflammation in their hands that they struggle to care for their babies.

Tender, swollen joints and feeling stiff in the morning are classic RA symptoms. You might also have fatigue, fever, or weight loss you can’t explain.

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Although not all these causes of joint pain can be cured, they can be treated. Some will require a course of antibiotics or other prescription meds. Others may improve on their own with time and rest. But any lingering pain in your joints should be reason enough to check in with your primary care doctor. He’ll likely refer you to a rheumatologist, a doctor who specializes in arthritis, to make sure you get the right diagnosis and treatment you (and your aching joints) need.

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