Living with Chronic Pain

Fatigue and Chronic Pain


Individuals with chronic pain conditions often experience fatigue. Characteristics of fatigue include reduced energy, profound weariness and excessive sleepiness. The symptoms of fatigue often interrupt everyday life; unfortunately, sleep and rest usually do not alleviate the symptoms. An estimated 10 to 40 percent of individuals with chronic pain also have chronic fatigue. Excessive sleepiness and lack of motivation during the day are often a sign of fatigue. If symptoms of fatigue last for six months or longer, individuals should visit a health care practitioner to identify the cause. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) may be to blame.

The relationship between fatigue and chronic pain

Fatigue affects individuals both physically and mentally. As chronic pain symptoms increase, fatigue symptoms tend to intensify and vice versa. This becomes a vicious cycle leading to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness. Lack of quality sleep causes chronic pain to increase, which lowers energy, resulting in fatigue. Loss of muscle mass, due to inactivity caused by chronic pain, leads to fatigue symptoms. Fatigue can be debilitating, making everyday tasks impossible. Treating symptoms of fatigue concurrently with symptoms of chronic pain can help increase physical and mental activity, regain focus, reduce depression symptoms and decrease pain levels.

Causes of fatigue

Fatigue is a symptom of and contributor to various health conditions. These include inflammatory diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, chronic headaches, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, mononucleosis, thyroid disease and cancer.
Other possible causes of fatigue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Medications, including opioid pain medications
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Low testosterone
  • Sleep apnea
  • Lack of restorative sleep
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