fatigue and joint painYour joints hurt. And you’re tired.

But is your joint pain and fatigue related?

Could your joint pain actually be causing fatigue?

And what – if anything - can you do about them?

You’ve got questions. Luckily, I’ve got some answers…

4 Ways Joint Pain Causes Fatigue

Not only is joint pain and fatigue related, joint pain can cause fatigue in four different ways.

1. Generally speaking, joint pain is caused by an unhealthy inflammatory response. There are proteins called cytokines that get released into your blood stream during an inflammatory response. Here’s why that’s a big deal – they are the exact same proteins that get released into your system when you have the flu. These cytokines are why you get fatigued when you’re fighting the flu or a bad cold. Only your body doesn’t differentiate between a flu and inflammation. So when your joints hurt from inflammation, those same proteins are released, causing you to feel tired and worn down. Just like if you had the flu.

2. But it’s not just in chronic conditions that these cytokines are released. A flare up of joint pain causes fatigue by releasing the proteins as well. This tends to be more confusing for people because they are generally well-rested and healthy and then it seems as if everything is falling apart at once. You’re hurting. You’re tired. And just yesterday you were fine. Don’t panic. Once the joint pain flare up has passed, so will the fatigue.

3. Joint pain also causes fatigue because it just takes more energy to do things when you hurt. Even mundane activities like carrying groceries or climbing stairs are an effort when you’re in pain. And the more energy you exert – both physical and emotional energy – the more fatigued you will become.

4. Finally, the two are related for this very basic reason: it’s hard to sleep when you’re in pain. First, you’re uncomfortable – and that keeps you awake. Then, if you do get to sleep, some nights the pain is so bad it wakes you. But the more tired you are, the more difficult it can be to handle pain…which makes the pain worse…which makes it harder to sleep. Pain and fatigue can exacerbate each other until it’s hard to break out of the cycle.

But just because it’s hard to break this cycle does not mean it’s impossible. There are steps you can take –

Breaking Out of the Joint Pain-Fatigue Cycle

When you hurt and you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is exercise. I get it. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the first things you should do.

Getting moving – walking, swimming, even gentle stretches – can be key to relieving both pain in your joints and fatigue.

Remember to look ahead and make a plan for your day. Maybe you used to be able to go all day on the fly, but it’s okay to need to be a little more scheduled than that these days.

Try to intersperse lighter chores among the heavier ones. Try to go to all the stores in the same area at the same time, rather than driving back and forth all over town.

And be honest with yourself about how much you can accomplish in one day before you get too tired.

Don’t forget to rest. This isn’t just sleeping at night. And it doesn’t have to mean taking a nap during the day either – although it certainly can.

Just make sure that when you’re making your schedule you include times to sit and rest. Maybe have a cup of tea or read a chapter in your book.

Resting can recharge you and give you more energy – which is the whole point of breaking the cycle!

Last, but not least, try to be as healthy as possible in spite of your joint pain and fatigue.

Eat properly. Lose weight if you need to. Be aware of your posture, so you put less stress on painful joints.

Consider meditation or yoga. The healthier you are in other ways, the easier it will be to manage joint pain and fatigue.

Sometimes it may feel like your whole world has become about joint pain and fatigue. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Take control of your joint pain – and your fatigue – so you can get back to doing the things you love.