Can Chronic Pain Cause Fatigue?
I am almost always tired. And I’m pretty sure it’s not because I:
- Don’t eat right
- Don’t get 8 hours of sleep
- Don’t exercise
Because I do all those things! And more. I concentrate on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. I go to bed at a reasonable hour and set my alarm for 8 hours later. I try to walk and do yoga everyday. My blood labs are fine too. So why am I tired?
I think my tiredness has to do with having chronic pain. Pain wears you out, and if it is chronic, it wears you out everyday. And it can impact your ability to function, your ability to sleep restfully, and affect your emotional and psychological outlook.
What is Chronic Pain?
First off, let’s define chronic pain. It is an unpleasant sensation or discomfort that lasts longer than the cycle for normal healing. It may or may not be a result from an injury. It remains active in the nervous system for months and years. It may cause tissue damage, or may be a result of tissue damage.
Through my research I have noted that chronic pain has several side effects, besides the obvious one of being in pain. Some of those effects are:
- Tense muscles
- Inability to move, or a reduced desire to move
- Overeating or not eating at all
- Depression or feeling sad
- Worry over expenses of treatments for pain
- Limited activities and social connections
- Focusing on the pain and nothing else, so you’re not much fun to be with
What is Fatigue?
This is an overall feeling of lack of energy and motivation, even tiredness, although fatigue is more than being tired. It is frequently associated with illness, especially if pain is involved. I read that it accompanies arthritis and fibromyalgia to name two. But other illnesses can be associated as well. Furthermore, I read that inflammation can cause fatigue. And some medications can cause the side effect of fatigue. So, make sure that you have all these issues investigated for you to reach a conclusion of what is causing your fatigue.
For this article, I am focusing on chronic pain and fatigue. I want to know the association, and more importantly, how I can manage it and hopefully feel better.
I read in this article (Fatigue) that fatigue affects us all differently. This is a very helpful article, and I recommend you read it. I did find there were some sentences that repeated but overall the article is very good.
Can Chronic Pain Cause Fatigue?
Probably the biggest correlation between chronic pain and fatigue is that chronic pain can interfere with sleep. If you aren’t sleeping well, then you are going to be fatigued. I know, not very profound, huh? Even if you plan to get a good night’s sleep, sometimes that doesn’t happen. I have written an article on getting a good night’s sleep. Click here. Hopefully one of those suggestions might help you. Let me know in the comments if it did. Or if you have other sleep suggestions.
Furthermore, the physical, emotional, and mental energy you expend to deal with the pain can be exhausting, and this leads to fatigue. Pain can just plain wear you down. It takes a physical toll as the body tries to adjust to the pain signals and inflammation. There is an emotional cost in feeling down, being discouraged and possibly depressed. And our mental state of being tired interferes with being able to think clearly and even stay awake!
So in answer to the question; yes, chronic pain can cause fatigue. Therefore, be gentle to yourself as you deal with not just the pain, but all the additional results from chronic pain.
What Can You Do To Feel Better?
PLAN YOUR DAY:
Food: One of the best pieces of advice I’ve used is to cook a healthy meal with several portions involved. That way you have expended the least amount of energy for several meals. You are using your mind to plan ahead. This is very important when you are in pain and fatigued.
I am on a limited food plan, high in protein and produce. Finding something I like can be a challenge. When I do, I make a lot. I just made a pork tenderloin with acorn squash in the crockpot. I’m going to have it for breakfast tomorrow. It helps when I have something yummy to look forward to in the morning.
The crock pot is a great tool! I understand the Instant Pot is even better, but I don’t have one yet. I highly recommend tools like these to make your life easier. That is one of the recommendations I found. Think of ways to make life easier.
If you have some tips for making life easier please leave them in the comments. You will be helping all of us.
Watch your caffeine intake too. There is that desire for a cup of coffee when you are tired, but it can boomerang on you and keep you awake when you want to be asleep. I read that we should stop caffeine 10 hours before our scheduled bedtime. Since I go to bed pretty early, like 9 p.m., that means I must stop drinking caffeine by 11 a.m.
Also, check to see if you are getting enough Vitamin D. A deficiency in this vitamin can contribute to fatigue, as well as other problems. Apparently most of us need a supplement.
May I also suggest you keep a food diary? Track what you eat and how you feel at the end of the day and the next day. You will feel better as you eat better. Tracking it will help you practice better eating.
Work: Those of us who have chronic pain and fatigue take longer to complete tasks. But that doesn’t mean we can’t complete them. I know some of my fellow bloggers produce 2-3 blogs a week. I can’t! But I can produce one a week. I plan out my week and split the task up into 4 days. I use 3 days to write about 500 words a day and the 4th day to finalize it. Then I post on the 5th day.
That’s all I can do! So plan your goals realistically. As you go through your days, you will find you have to tweak your schedule. But I highly recommend you make a schedule. You will gain a great deal of satisfaction from completing your list. And even if you don’t complete them all, you will have accomplished something, which is a great feeling. And by evaluating your list and your accomplishments you will be able to adjust your schedule.
Some other good advice I read about was to pace yourself. Know yourself well enough to not push if you don’t feel up to it. The word balance comes to mind. And balance is critical to those of us in pain. Self care and awareness of our capabilities as well as our limitations is crucial.
Breaks: This is great advice for anyone, whether you suffer with chronic pain or not. I read that short frequent breaks can make a positive impact on your fatigue, work output and general wellbeing. Just a two minute break can help! And especially for those of us in chronic pain, changing positions is vital.
So get up from reading this and take a two minute walk. You’ll also help your eyes to avoid strain by changing your focus. And it clears your mind, especially if you are able to go outside and commune with nature for a bit. Try it. I bet you’ll find you are more productive and feel better.
Movement: In almost every post I have made on this site I strongly encourage movement. That is particularly important if you are in chronic pain. Again, even if it’s just a little movement, it’s a start.
Sometimes I walk. Sometimes I do stretches or yoga. See these articles of mine for what I enjoy doing. Review of Jane Adams’ Gentle Yoga DVD – A Self Care Natural Solution for Pain and Inflammation. And Review of Emily Lark’s Back to Life DVD – A Natural Remedy for Pain
I hope to get back to swimming, which I can do all year round in SoCal! What do you do? Let us know, we might like to try it too!
This following link is to a great website I just found. I tried to contact them to see if they had a newsletter, but was unsuccessful. But they have some great information about chronic pain, seeing as their name is Institute for Chronic Pain. That link directs you to their article about Fatigue and Chronic Pain, which as you will see, gave me some of these ideas. I hope you go there and find some help for your suffering. And investigate the other articles.
Find Joy: I know it sounds like that would be the last thing you can do, but by focusing your mind on that which gives you joy, you are rewiring your brain to not give the pain as much power. You can go with meditation practices, or just watching a funny movie. The meditation will probably help you sleep. Laughing produces happy hormones. Whatever you choose, take the bull by the horns and go for it.
Yes, your chronic pain can cause fatigue. But you can start practicing some of these suggestions to make a difference in your life.
Your comments and thoughts will be helpful to this community of pain sufferers. Please contribute. Thank you.