OA and Fatigue

Exercise and Nutrition

Some people turn to caffeine for an energy boost when fatigued and while there are some benefits of coffee, its effects wear off after a couple of hours, cause a “crash”, and can interfere with the natural sleep cycle.

Exercise is also a great way to improve one’s energy levels. In a study published in the Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics journal in 2008, it found that inactive people who normally complained of fatigue could increase energy up to 20% while decreasing fatigue by as much as 65% by participating in a regular, low-intensity exercise program. One might think that exercising would tire a person out even more but it is quite the opposite long-term. Aerobic exercise has been show to spark the mitochondria in our body’s cells to produce more energy to meet the increased energy requirements created by exercise. Although it is probably difficult to exercise with painful osteoarthritis, one can still try a stationary bike, short walks outside, stretches, light weights, and water aerobic exercises.

Maintaining a Sleep diary and Regular schedule

Having a regular time to wake up each morning and go to bed each night can help tremendously with sleep and overall energy levels. Keeping up with a regular sleep schedule can include not lying in bed until its bedtime, wake up around the same time every day, being careful with the length and frequency of naps, adjusting temperatures in one’s bedroom. A regular sleep schedule can also help strengthen circadian rhythms and leads to regular times of sleep onset. Keeping a journal and writing down how you slept each night and factors that could have interrupted with your sleep can help analyze what leads to sleep problems.


Medicine and Visiting Your Doctor

If none of the previous alternative methods mentioned are helping, then it could be time to have a discussion with your doctor about taking supplements or medication for sleep. There are energy providing supplements, such as Vitamin B6, B12, and ginseng that are known to provide a natural energy boost with minimal side effects. There are also several natural sleep aids, such as tryptophan, melatonin, and various herbs that are available at most retail locations. Newer medications in the market are also available that don’t have as many side effects as previous sleeping pills. Open communication with your doctor about osteoarthritis, fatigue, and pain can lead to a proper remedy for these problems.


Fatigue, osteoarthritis, and pain are often linked because of many possible reasons. The pain can be exhausting to deal with every day, interfere with one’s sleep, and cause one to run out of daily spoons, as Donato’s spoon theory suggests. The lack of energy can have many possible consequences; it can perpetuate the pain cycle and make the pain worse, cause irritability, decreased motivation, and a higher risk for work-place or automobile accidents. Fortunately there are a couple of ways to combat the fatigue that may be associated with chronic pain. A nutrition and low-intensity exercise program can help regulate schedules. Maintaining and documenting a regular sleep schedule can naturally increase energy levels and decrease fatigue. Finally, natural and pharmacologic sleep aids are also options after consulting with a doctor. Fatigue may be hard enough to deal with, but the methods described above are just a few ways to help combat the lack of energy associated with osteoarthritis.


ProHealth (Deep Relaxation Techniques for Fibromyalgia Patients)

NCBI (The Effects of Fatigue and Sleepiness on Nurse Performance and Patient Safety)

WebMD (Foods to Fight Fatigue)

WebMD (Exercise for Energy: Workouts that Work)

Help Guide (Sleeping Pills and Natural Sleep Aids)

Help Guide (How to Sleep Better)

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