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Why Does My Body Ache and I Feel Tired?
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Why Does My Body Ache and I Feel Tired?


Have you ever woken up feeling overly tired, poured a cup of coffee to fight it off, but then felt like you’re dragging the whole rest of the day? While this may happen now and then from a lack of sleep the night before, exhaustion from physically overdoing it, or getting over an illness, if it starts to become the norm, then there could be a bigger problem. If you experience nagging tiredness, that could be an issue, but what if it’s accompanied by aching all over your body? Believe it or not, feeling this way isn’t super rare, and many experience similar feelings of exhaustion and muscle aches on a daily basis. Let’s look at some of the reasons and possible causes of feeling tired and achy at the same time.

What Is Chronic Fatigue?

If you feel tired and lethargic most of the time, or if you have periods of nagging tiredness, then you may be suffering from chronic fatigue (also called chronic fatigue syndrome). A chronic condition is any condition that lasts for months, years, or even decades with much change or variation. While it’s estimated that around 0.5% of the US population suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), because so many medical conditions cause forms of chronic fatigue, it’s impossible to know the actual number of people afflicted, but it’s actually much higher. If you have chronic fatigue, you may try different methods of staying alert and awake but still typically feel very tired. Maybe you drink more coffee, tea, or energy drinks or have tried medication or natural supplements to get through the day. Perhaps you’ve blocked out more time to sleep or have tried to make it a habit of going to bed earlier. Still, you just can’t seem to shake the feeling of exhaustion and lethargy. This is chronic fatigue. If feeling overly tired is combined with feeling aches all over the body, it’s worth investigating, as there’s always the possibility it could be something more serious. There are a number of diseases that include chronic fatigue and aches in their list of symptoms.

What Happens When Your Body Aches?

When you start to get sick with viral infections, usually they start with a sore throat, but it’s very common to start experiencing aching all over your body. This often comes when you’re starting to get a fever, and it happens because your body is flooding with white blood cells to fight infection — a consequence is that inflammation pops up all over the place. Sometimes being achy can be as simple as your body just trying to fight off an infection, but other times there are more complicated reasons. Generally, while your head and stomach can ache occasionally, you’ll feel body aches in your joints. A joint is anywhere in the body where two or more bones come together — like your spine, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, fingers, and toes. Joints are usually surrounded by cartilage and contain a network of tendons and ligaments that hold the bones together and allow you to move freely. Because of all the bone, muscle, and cartilage in the joints, they’re a common place to experience inflammation.

What Are Common Causes of Aching and Fatigue?

Everyone feels fatigued at some point for any number of reasons. But sometimes fatigue can be from more than just a long week or a lack of sleep. Long-term fatigue with body aches is often caused by:
  • Viral illness: Any sickness that includes a fever will probably also include aching joints and body fatigue. The common cold, the flu, COVID-19, norovirus, and many other typical illnesses can cause aching and a feeling of tiredness.
  • Stress and Anxiety: When we're very stressed, we tend to experience a tensing up of the muscles all around our body, especially in the back, shoulders, and neck. This can lead to fatigue and aching from all the strain.
  • Depression: While not necessarily to the degree of acute stress, long-term depression can cause a lot of physical issues, including severe fatigue and sometimes even muscle pain or recurring headaches.
  • Vitamin Deficiencies: Lacking certain vitamins that your body relies on for normal function can lead to a long list of common symptoms that include aching and fatigue. Some of the most common vitamin deficiencies are vitamin D, B6, and B12. Often autoimmune disorders can cause one or more vitamin deficiencies.

Can Autoimmune Diseases Cause Fatigue and Aches?

Is Gout an Autoimmune Disease? An autoimmune disease is a type of illness where the body’s immune system, instead of attacking foreign threats, attacks itself. There are many types of autoimmune diseases and many reasons why they occur, but what they all have in common is they destroy good cells in different areas of the body. If you have one autoimmune disease, you’re much more likely to develop another one, so those with conditions like Celiac, lupus, or type 1 diabetes generally have a much higher chance of acquiring another autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis. For many autoimmune diseases, there’s a genetic component. If you have a family member that has an autoimmune disease, then you’re more likely to develop one, especially if that family member is a parent or grandparent. You can go for years sometimes without developing symptoms because sometimes a virus or infection will trigger an autoimmune response from your body, and the disease will become symptomatic.

What Are Some Common Autoimmune Diseases?

There are many different types of autoimmune diseases that can wreak havoc on the body in different ways. Here are a few common autoimmune diseases and how they can affect your health overall.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

This autoimmune form of arthritis is more common if you’re older but can also sometimes occur in the young. RA is characterized by painful inflammation in the joints of the body. Sometimes it will affect only one or two joints, but often multiple joints are affected, often on different parts of the body (for example, both hands instead of just one).

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

When someone has MS, their body attacks the protective covering of the nerves and confuses pain and communication signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Someone with MS can lose the ability to walk or perform other basic tasks because the brain is communicating with the nerves properly. Fatigue and aching throughout the body, as well as electric sensations, poor coordination, and vision problems, might also occur.

Celiac Disease

A genetic disorder, celiac is carried in families and passed down from parent to child. Some people with celiac can go through most of their lives without developing symptoms, while others can become sick as children and deal with symptoms their entire lives. When someone who has celiac eats gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye), instead of their intestines breaking down the gluten, it destroys the intestinal tract. It can lead to vitamin deficiencies from the malabsorption of nutrients. Celiac can cause many problems and issues with the body, including abdominal cramping, diarrhea, weight loss, headaches, body aches, and extreme fatigue.

Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes is a disease where the body doesn’t make insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that regulates sugar in the blood. If someone with type 1 diabetes doesn’t regulate their sugar intake and get a sufficient amount of insulin, the body may start attacking the major organs. Some signs of diabetes include frequent urination, frequent thirst, unexplained weight loss, and severe fatigue.

Fibromyalgia

There is still a lot to be learned about fibromyalgia, but it’s an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system. Usually, it appears in people who are middle-aged, but it can affect any age group. Fibromyalgia is characterized by nerve discomfort throughout the body, aching in the joints, chronic pain, and fatigue. There isn’t a known cure for fibromyalgia, but some treatments can lessen the symptoms and provide some relief.

What Are Other Potential Causes of Fatigue and Aches?

Aside from autoimmune conditions and obvious causes like a lack of sleep, being overworked, or practicing bad health habits, other disorders can cause aching and fatigue, either from within the body or from things outside the body (like ticks).

Lyme Disease

The most well-known tick-borne illness is Lyme disease, a disease that’s caused by a deer tick bite. This disease is most often found in the northeast and upper midwest of the U.S., where deer tick populations are larger. The onset of Lyme disease is usually marked by flu symptoms like a low-grade fever, headache, body aches, and fatigue. Usually, if caught early, Lyme disease is easily treatable with a course of antibiotics. However, if it goes untreated, it can lead to neurological problems.

Thyroid Disorders

The thyroid produces many of the hormones that regulate our bodily functions. Sometimes conditions can arise where the thyroid produces too much of a hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little (hypothyroidism). Thyroid conditions can affect the body in many ways, wreaking havoc on your mood and thought processing, causing tiredness and body aches. Usually, thyroid disorders are easily treated with medication or surgery. Often, thyroid problems are autoimmune.

How Can You Ease Fatigue and Aches?

If you notice that you’re starting to feel increasingly fatigued, achy, or both, there are a few areas that might be worth addressing first. You can do a few basic things to encourage good overall health and well-being. These include:

Medications

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen can help deal with body aches. These medicines have few side effects and can deal with basic aching soreness. In more severe cases, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, or prescription pain relievers can be prescribed by a doctor.

Rest

No matter what the ailment, it helps to get quality rest! Don’t underestimate the value of a good night’s sleep and time to relax, recharge and refresh. This could mean making sure your bedding and pillow are sufficient, prioritizing rest if you have a busy schedule, and trying to avoid overly stressful situations. Relaxation techniques can help, as well as taking a warm bath or using a jacuzzi to help relax your body and deal with nagging aches.

Nutrition

Another important component of feeling less achy or fatigued is ensuring that your diet encourages body healing and reduces inflammation. Usually, this means eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins.

Staying Active

While being physically active might seem like the last you want to do when you feel achy and fatigued, increasing your heart rate and moving your body is one of the best ways to get energized. When we exercise, our body releases endorphins that improve our mood and help us relax, which can help with chronic fatigue.

Spending Time Outdoors

One of nature’s best gifts is the fresh air and wide open spaces of the outdoors. Today, we tend to spend an excessive amount of time indoors, often staring at screens, which can make us feel achy and fatigued. Spending time outside goes a long way in improving our mood and managing things like stress, anxiety, and depression that can cause our bodies to feel sluggish and sore.

Beating Body Aches and Fighting Fatigue

If you’re dealing with aching and fatigue and unsure of the possible causes, a good place to start is by talking to your healthcare provider. It’s always best to start by ruling out more potentially serious conditions. If the cause is already known or you’re just managing symptoms, remember the importance of good health habits like getting sufficient rest, eating well, staying active, and getting fresh air. It might also be worth looking into strategies and supplements that you’ve not considered before. Sources: Why your whole body aches when you're sick (and what you can do about it) | UCLA Health. 7 surprising ways stress can affect your body | Kaiser Permanente. Multiple sclerosis - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic.

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