Coping With Fatigue and Chronic Pain
Fatigue is defined as the lack of energy, or lethargy of body and mind, possibly caused by sleep deficit, hormone deficiency, or other diseases. It has been proven to be associated with cognitive problems, reduced job performance, reduced motivation, increased safety risks, and numerous negative physiological changes. Fatigue-related problems are also believed to cost the United States an estimated $18 billion dollars per year in lost productivity and accidents. More than 1,500 fatalities, 100,000 crashes, and 76,000 injuries annually are attributed to fatigue-related drowsiness on the roads.
For people suffering pain from osteoarthritis, fatigue can be a natural result of their condition. It is simply exhausting to deal with an unpleasant feeling, like pain, for days on end. Doctor’s appointments, medication, and anticipating the pain, all take an emotional and physical toll on one’s energy. Some people with non-apparent disabilities, such as osteoarthritis, can become tired by the constant effort required to pass as non-disabled. Sometimes the pain does not go away when resting or laying down. The pain can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep or concentrate on relaxing when one uncomfortable.
Sleep is Important
Simply put, sleep is very important. The National Sleep Foundation details how crucial sleep is to our well-being and energy levels. Sleep has been proposed to be a physiological adaptation to conserve energy and heal; it restores energy to our bodies, helps clear waste from the brain, and can even clear out negative emotions from our thought process. If someone with osteoarthritis manages to fall asleep, the pain can cause that person to wake up multiple times per night, resulting in low-quality sleep and a general feeling of fatigue.
The Spoon Theory
The fatigue a pain sufferer endures can perpetuate the pain cycle and make one perceive the pain as even worse. This can make completing everyday tasks such as putting on clothes or getting out of bed very difficult. It can also lead to social alienation because you are simply not up for something that requires energy, such as going out or seeing friends. The spoon theory, by Christine Donato, explain why people with a chronic illness have reduced amount of energy available for productive tasks. “Spoons” are used as an intangible unit of measurement to track how much energy a person has every day. Each activity costs a certain amount of spoons and can’t be replaced until the next day. Someone who runs out of spoons loses the ability to do anything other than rest. Pain sufferers must plan their activities to ensure that every day is manageable because their disability uses up a lot of their spoons. On the other hand, healthy people have a never-ending supply of spoons and thus almost never need to worry about running out of them.
One’s energy levels can be improved not only through sleep, but also through exercise and nutrition, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and supplements or medication.
Exercise and Nutrition
Proper nutrition and a regular osteoarthritis exercise program can help to increase one’s energy when dealing with OA and fatigue. Certain foods, such as raw fruits, vegetables, yogurt, complex carbohydrates, nuts, and lean meats are known to give a boost to one’s energy. Sugar, simple carbohydrates, and fried food are prone to making one feel lethargic and lacking energy. Changing the frequency of your meals can also help to increase energy levels and it varies person to person. Some people achieve a boost with multiple small meals throughout the day, while others prefer the concept of three solid meals every day.