October 14

Why Chronic Pain Causes Fatigue

Whether you’ve got fibromyalgiarheumatoid arthritis, or another condition that causes chronic pain, you may find yourself suffering from chronic fatigue alongide your other symptoms.

In this article, we’ll explore the connection between chronic pain and fatigue, along with some ways to cope with them and improve your quality of life.

Read on to learn more!

Living with Chronic Pain and Fatigue

Walking through pain and fatigue can be a huge challenge. The more pain you experience, the more fatigued you become. The more fatigued you are (and the more you rest), the more pain you may experience. The two seem to feed off each other and it can be incredibly discouraging to deal with one of these issues, much less both.

In this section, we’ll talk about the ways in which chronic pain can contribute to chronic fatigue, and in the next section we’ll talk about ways to cope when living with chronic pain and fatigue.

1. Pain interferes with sleep

During the day, you may find that you have plenty of distractions to get your mind off the pain. At night, those distractions are gone, leaving you struggling to get a good night’s sleep through excruciating pain. Even when you do your best to sleep, you may find that you have trouble falling asleep or you wake frequently in the night.

When your quality of sleep is compromised, your sleep is not as restorative as it should be. This can lead to you waking up in the morning feeling just as exhausted as you were when you first laid your head down to rest. This is why an fatigue study found that “High fatigue is most often associated with high pain.”

When your body doesn’t get the rest it needs throughout the night, it’s not surprising that you may experience fatigue during the day.

2. Inflammation causes fatigue

Most people who suffer from chronic pain also experience inflammation. According to the above study, “...biologic agents targeting inflammatory cytokines are effective in fatigue.” Another way of describing it is to say that pro-inflammatory cytokines are produced by the body as a response to pathogens, but they cause your body to become more fatigued as a result.

In layman’s terms, your body must work overtime to counteract the effects of your chronic pain.

3. Inactivity worsens the cycle

When you feel bombarded with pain on a daily basis, it can be tempting to stay in bed or avoid movement in an effort to avoid feeling more pain. However, this solution serves to worsen the issue: when your body is less active, your muscles weaken and you begin to experience more strain than if you maintained your activity levels.

If you do decide to engage in activity after a long period of inactivity, this can lead to injury or strain, causing more fatigue than if you’d maintained activity in the first place. That said, feeling anxiety about potential re-injury is a struggle for those who deal with chronic pain, and if you’re dealing with fear of injury it can be helpful to speak with a professional.  

4. Stress can make you feel exhausted

When your body is under stress, it releases cortisol, triggering a “fight or flight response.” The issue is that your body is not meant to function in a continual “fight or flight mode,” and all of that stress can build up and become a problem for you.

If you’re dealing with chronic pain and fatigue, you may find that you also experience chronic stress. Chronic stress can contribute to anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, muscle tension/pain, heart problems, stroke, weight gain, memory/concentration issues, and trouble sleeping. All of these conditions can put further strain on your body, making you feel more exhausted during the day and unable to sleep well at night.

5. Certain medications cause fatigue

Many of the medications which are prescribed for those with chronic pain may also cause fatigue symptoms. Some of the medications with these side effects are listed below:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Antidepressants
  • Sleep aids/hypnotics/sedatives
  • Strong painkillers (opiods)
  • Anticonvulsants

If you’re taking these or any other medications that list fatigue as a side effect, you may find it even more difficult to resist fatigue than someone who doesn’t.  

6. Lack of nutrition caused by poor diet

When you’re overly tired, the last thing you want to do is take the time to prepare a nutritious meal. It’s all you can do to prepare food at all, much less something with vegetables and fruit for you to chop up and cook.

In the same way that inactivity worsens the cycle of fatigue, a poor diet can cause you to feel more worn out and exhausted. By staying hydrated and getting the proper nutrition, you can keep some of the fatigue at bay. More on that later!

7. Other mental and physical health conditions

Earlier, we noted that chronic stress can lead to mental and physical health conditions. In a similar way, other mental and physical health conditions can almost have a compounding effect on fatigue. For example, if you suffer from chronic pain and depression, it’s likely that you suffer from a great deal of fatigue as well, since fatigue is a symptom of both conditions.

How to Cope with Chronic Pain and Fatigue

Chronic pain and fatigue can be frustrating and disheartening. It may seem like a downward spiral and you might wonder if you’ll ever get out of this fog of pain and exhaustion.

When trying to learn how to cope with chronic pain and fatigue, it can feel like the odds are against you. However, with a bit of determination, you can find better ways to manage your fatigue and pain. Here are some tips on how to do that!

1. Stay hydrated and get good nutrition

Even if you aren’t up to the idea of preparing a nutritious meal yet, there are things you can do to take care of yourself. Here are some tips:

  • Start your day with a big jug of water. Purchase a huge water bottle and start your day by filling it with water and ice. Keep it next to you wherever you go so that you’ll be properly hydrated throughout the day.
  • Find nutritious, quick meals at the store. One of the perks of the age of convenience is that you can find nearly anything in the form of a quick meal. Try picking up a frozen skillet that’s chock-full of tasty veggies. All you have to do is toss it in a skillet with some water and it’ll be ready to eat!
  • Buy frozen veggies. If you don’t want to put forth the effort to chop fruit or vegetables yourself, you can buy them already frozen at the store. This will cut down on prep time while providing you with great nutrition at a low cost.
  • Consider supplements. If your labs are showing that you’re vitamin deficient in an area but you can’t eat certain foods to obtain the nutrients you need (ie: if you have an autoimmune disorder or food allergies), make sure you get a supplement to bolster your immune system.

2. Move around (but be careful)

According to a study, aerobic exercise may improve physical function and decrease pain intensity without leading to further fatigue. Another study showed that resistance exercise improves physical fatigue issues in women with fibromyalgia, so it’s definitely worth a try to look into gentle exercises as a way to combat some of the other factors that lead to fatigue.

Examples of gentle exercise include walking, swimming, aerobics, balance training, and more.

Pink exercise shoes and blue weights

3. Work on getting better sleep

It goes without saying that pain management is an important part of getting a good night’s sleep, so if you haven’t already, ask a doctor about prescribing you medication that will allow you to sleep at night. If you’ve already done this, you can talk to your doctor about a sleep study to see if anything else can be done to help you sleep better.

It also helps to follow common sleep hygiene tips to make sure your bedroom is a calm and welcoming environment.

4. Talk about adjusting your medication

If your medications are the cause of some of your fatigue, speak with your doctor to see if there are any other medications you can take.

5. Prioritize your physical and mental health

Obviously exercise goes into prioritizing your physical health, but you should look beyond that to ensure that you’re taking care of yourself. Attend your doctor appointments and take control of your mental health by seeing a professional.  

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treatment in Maryland

Where do you go for chronic pain treatment? Mt Airy, Maryland is home to Shakthi Health and Wellness, a wellness center that’s focused on your well-being. We offer a variety of treatments, including regenerative medicine, acupuncture, vitamin B12 injections and nutrition consultations. We offer a holistic approach, treating the whole person rather than the symptoms.

We’ve got not one, but two experienced doctors on staff. Dr. Jyothi Rao or Dr. Sudir Rao would be happy to be your next chronic fatigue doctor. Mt Airy, Maryland is one of our locations, but we also have a location in Elkridge.

Want to start managing your chronic pain and fatigue? Schedule a consultation with us today!


Chronic Illness, fatigue, pain management

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