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Chronic Pain and Fatigue: Discover the Cycle and How to Break It

Chronic pain is an unwelcome companion for many, impacting not only physical well-being but also causing profound fatigue. This blog will explore the intricate relationship between chronic pain and fatigue and provide practical tips to break this exhausting cycle.



What is Chronic Fatigue?

what is chronic fatigue

Chronic Fatigue is more than just feeling tired after a long day or a strenuous exercise. It's an all-encompassing sensation of weariness that affects various facets of your life. When you experience fatigue, it's not merely physical exhaustion; it also extends to mental and emotional exhaustion.


The spoon theory explains that people living with chronic illness, chronic pain, and disability have limited energy resources and also expend more energy on everyday tasks than people without disease and disability. Spoon theory uses spoons as a unit of energy, and each spoon estimates how many spoons you may require to complete a specific task.


There are 3 types of Fatigue:


Physical Fatigue:

Physically, fatigue manifests as a pervasive sense of weakness and lethargy. It's the feeling of being drained of energy, to the point where even the simplest tasks require a monumental effort, such as going up and down stairs or transferring from seat to stand. Chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia or arthritis, often exacerbate physical fatigue.


Mental Fatigue:

Mental fatigue is a cognitive slowdown. It impairs your ability to concentrate, make decisions, and think clearly. Imagine focusing on a task while your mind feels foggy and sluggish. An excellent example of this type of fatigue is when you are on the computer for hours (your body hasn’t done much, but the brain is tired).


Emotional Fatigue:

Emotional fatigue is another dimension of this complex phenomenon. It's characterized by emotional exhaustion and a reduced ability to cope with stress. You may feel easily triggered, apathy, hopelessness, and lack of motivation. Chronic pain often brings emotional fatigue because it can lead to frustration, anxiety, and even depression. Dealing with persistent pain can be emotionally draining, making it challenging to maintain a positive outlook.


Does Chronic Pain Make You Tired? The Complex Relationship Between Chronic Pain And Fatigue

Does chronic pain make you tired

Chronic pain is a deceptive companion. It not only causes physical discomfort but also disrupts various aspects of your life, including your energy levels. The relationship between chronic pain and fatigue is complex and multifaceted, each affecting the other continuously.


Imagine your body as a machine that has limited reserves of energy. In the case of chronic pain, a substantial portion of this reserve goes toward healing and managing the ongoing discomfort. This leaves very little energy for other essential functions, such as maintaining overall vitality and combating inflammation.


Here's how this intricate relationship works:


Sleep Disturbances:


One of the most apparent ways chronic pain leads to fatigue is by interfering with your sleep. The discomfort and discomfort associated with conditions like fibromyalgia, arthritis, or back pain can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Even when you do manage to drift off, you may wake frequently throughout the night due to pain. As a result, you wake up feeling far from rested, setting the stage for a day filled with exhaustion.


Physical and Mental Strain:


Coping with chronic pain requires significant physical and mental effort and often leads to heightened stress levels. The frustration of living with persistent discomfort can take a toll on your mental health, leading to anxiety and even depression. Simple tasks that were once effortless become exhausting endeavors.


Stress in the Body:


When suffering from chronic pain, your body constantly processes pain signals, diverting precious energy from other essential functions. For some people, the pain becomes the thread, and the body may react to it. Your body may perceive that you are in a constant stress response (fight, flight, or freeze); the alarms keep going, and the warning messages don’t stop.


This stress response from the body creates more inflammation and also increases the perception of the pain intensity. This ongoing inflammatory response, combined with the body’s constant stress response, can leave you physically and mentally drained.


Reduced Activity:

Have you heard, “If you don’t use it, you lose it”? Chronic pain can limit your ability to engage in physical activities. You may find yourself avoiding exercise or even basic movements due to the fear of exacerbating your pain. This sedentary lifestyle can lead to muscle weakness and decreased endurance, making tasks that were once easy even more exhausting.


Vicious Cycle:

It is very common to see patients experiencing the Pain-Stress-Fatigue cycle. Fatigue further complicates the management of chronic pain. When you’re tired, your pain tolerance decreases, making the pain feel even more intense. This can lead to increased stress and further worsening of fatigue, creating a vicious cycle that’s challenging to break.


Medication Side Effects:

Many individuals with chronic pain rely on medications to manage their symptoms. These medications can come with side effects, including drowsiness and mental fogginess. While they may help alleviate pain, they can also contribute to feelings of fatigue.


Understanding this intricate relationship between chronic pain and fatigue is the first step toward breaking the cycle and regaining control over your life. By addressing your condition's physical and emotional aspects, you can develop strategies to manage pain effectively and improve your overall energy levels.


5 Tips to Break This Cycle

tips to break chronic pain cycle

Breaking the cycle of chronic pain and fatigue is possible with the right strategies. Here are five tips to help you regain control of your life:


1. Exercise or Gentle Movements


Remember: “Motion is Lotion”. Regular exercise or gentle movements like yoga, tai chi, QiGong, Self-Healing Movements can improve your physical condition and help manage pain. Exercise releases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers, and can enhance overall energy levels. Even if you’re dealing with chronic pain, there are modified exercises that can be tailored to your needs.


2. Eating Healthy


A balanced diet can provide the necessary nutrients to support your body's energy production. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar, as they can lead to energy crashes. Instead, opt for whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Nutrient-rich foods can provide the sustained energy you need to combat fatigue.


3. Relaxation Techniques


As you heal, it is very important to remind the body that you are safe, that the pain is not a real threat, and that it is okay for the body to move to a parasympathetic state (relaxation, digestion, and healing). Practicing relaxation and somatic techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can reduce stress and help manage pain. Less stress means less mental fatigue and more energy. These techniques can also improve the quality of your sleep, further contributing to your overall well-being.


4. Consistent Sleep Routine


Establishing a regular sleep schedule can improve the quality of your sleep. Ensure your sleep environment is comfortable and conducive to rest. Your bedroom is your “safe space”; we need to feel safe and comfortable to fall asleep. Adequate sleep can significantly reduce fatigue and improve resilience in managing chronic pain.


5. Take Care of Your Mental Health


Managing chronic pain can be emotionally challenging. Seek support from a therapist, a coach, or a support group to address the emotional aspects of pain. When your mental health is in check, it can positively impact your overall energy levels. Additionally, managing any underlying anxiety or depression can help break the cycle of pain and fatigue.



Conclusion


In conclusion, chronic pain and fatigue don't have to be your constant companions. By implementing these strategies and seeking support, you can regain control of your health and break free from the cycle that has held you back. Remember, you have the power to live a life filled with energy and well-being.


Are You Ready to Take Control of Your Health and Break Free from Chronic Pain?

be healthy academy

If you're ready to reclaim your life and heal from chronic pain and fatigue, join Be Healthy Academy.


Be Healthy Academy is a science-based program that offers accountability, pain science education, stress management techniques, ways to shift mindset, increase body awareness, techniques to release trauma from the body, and so much more 🧠💖🔥


We also offer interactive workshops and a supportive community to guide you on your healing journey. It's time to break free from the cycle and regain the vitality and well-being you deserve.



References:

  • Madison Medical Associates. (n.d.). The Relationship Between Chronic Pain And Fatigue. Retrieved from https://www.madisonmedicalassociates.com/posts/pain-management/the-relationship-between-chronic-pain-and-fatigue/

  • AbleTo. (n.d.). Why Chronic Pain Causes Fatigue and Depression. Retrieved from https://www.ableto.com/resources/why-chronic-pain-causes-fatigue-and-depression/

  • HealthCentral. (n.d.). How to Deal With Fatigue When You Have Chronic Pain. Retrieved from https://www.healthcentral.com/pain-management/deal-with-fatigue-when-you-have-chronic-pain

  • Fanaee, D. (n.d.). What is Spoon Theory? Retrieved from https://www.drfanaee.com/blog/what-is-spoon-theory


Images shared under Free Creative Commons License, from Freepik, or are from Ana's private gallery.



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