Osteoarthritis can cause fatigue. This may be due to sleep problems and chronic pain. Certain osteoarthritis medications may also lead to excessive tiredness. Resting and other tips can help a person manage fatigue.

If a person experiences frequent fatigue, they should contact a doctor for advice. The doctor can help determine if it is due to osteoarthritis, related medications, or another underlying cause.

Read on to learn more about how osteoarthritis may cause fatigue. This article also looks at osteoarthritis medications, how to manage fatigue, and more.

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A 2019 review notes that the exact cause of fatigue in people with osteoarthritis is unknown. However, numerous possible factors can contribute to a person’s symptoms.

Sleep problems

Many individuals with osteoarthritis experience sleep problems.

A 2019 cross-sectional study found that people with knee osteoarthritis were more likely to experience fatigue than people without the condition. The study found that reduced sleep was a risk factor for fatigue.

Chronic pain can affect a person’s ability to get good quality sleep. They may find it difficult to find a comfortable position or they may wake up due to the pain.

In people with inflammatory osteoarthritis, inflammation can contribute to reduced sleep quality.

Learn about arthritis symptoms at night.

Lack of physical activity

Osteoarthritis can affect a person’s ability to exercise or engage in regular physical activity. This can cause muscles to weaken, which may contribute to fatigue.

Learn more about physical activity and exercise.


Around 20% of people with osteoarthritis experience depression. Depression may lead to fatigue in some people.

According to a 2018 article, more than 90% of people with major depressive disorder frequently report experiencing fatigue.

A 2022 study found there is a shared genetic liability between osteoarthritis and major depressive disorder. This suggests a person may be more likely to experience both conditions. Furthermore, fatigue could develop as a symptom of either.

Depression can also affect the quality of sleep. This, in turn, can also contribute to fatigue.

Learn more about the possible links between depression and fatigue.

Certain osteoarthritis medications may cause fatigue. For example, a person may take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to manage pain, and this can lead to fatigue.

Doctors may recommend corticosteroid injections if other treatments do not work. These can also possibly cause fatigue as a side effect.

If a person believes they are experiencing fatigue due to the medication they are taking, it is important to contact a doctor before discontinuing any medication. The doctor can assess their current treatment plan and advise on any suitable changes.

Various tips can help a person manage fatigue, including:

  • taking time to rest between activities
  • practicing good sleep hygiene, including relaxing before bed and avoiding screens
  • taking steps to manage stress
  • getting enough regular physical activity or exercise, which can help strengthen muscles and decrease stress

Sometimes, chronic pain may cause fatigue. Individuals with osteoarthritis should contact a doctor about managing their pain. Keeping pain at a manageable level may help decrease fatigue.

View our osteoarthritis overview article for more information about the condition. Here are some frequently asked questions.

What are the 4 stages of osteoarthritis?

The four stages of osteoarthritis usually include minor, mild, moderate, and severe. The symptoms of arthritis may be mild in earlier stages. By the final stage, surgical intervention may be necessary.

What causes osteoarthritis to flare up?

Overusing an affected joint may lead to a flare-up. Stress, cold temperatures, weight gain, or stress may also trigger flare-ups.

Can osteoarthritis make your whole body ache?

Osteoarthritis can affect joints all over the body, including the feet, hips, fingers, and knees.

Can osteoarthritis cause shortness of breath?

In some people, osteoarthritis can negatively affect lung function. A 2022 study examined the relationship between osteoarthritis and lung disease and found that some types of osteoarthritis can decrease lung function. This may cause shortness of breath in certain individuals.

Does arthritis make you tired all the time?

The symptoms of arthritis may vary between individuals. Some people experience chronic exhaustion. They may find it difficult to move or experience difficulties with motivation. Some of these individuals may feel tired all the time. Others may only experience temporary fatigue.

Can osteoarthritis make you feel unwell?

Osteoarthritis can have a negative impact on an individual’s well-being. Some people with fatigue describe feeling like they have the flu. They may develop exhaustion and feel drained.

Some people with osteoarthritis may experience fatigue. This may be due to problems with sleeping, reduced physical activity, or depression.

Some medications, including NSAIDs and corticosteroids, may also cause fatigue as a side effect.

To help manage fatigue, a person can take regular breaks, practice good sleep hygiene, and get regular physical activity.

If a person experiences frequent fatigue, they should contact a doctor for advice. The doctor can help determine the cause of fatigue and advise on ways to manage it.