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Can an RA flare cause muscle weakness?

Hi all. I was diagnosed with RA in 2018, so I’m still trying to figure out how it affects me. Does anyone else have muscle weakness with a flare?

Muscle weakness and rheumatoid arthritis

The last few days, my joints have been a little more stiff/swollen but not too much pain. My biggest problem is feeling weak/shaky all over. Standing too long and it feels like my legs will just give out and I need to sit down. Also, some GI upset, brain fog, and low grade fever some of the time. Last night pain in left arm as well. I had another episode like this a few months ago, same except with dizziness rather than muscle weakness. No cough, stuffy nose, sore throat or anything to indicate flu or cold.

Thanks for any input!

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  1. KM2018:

    I cannot say it does or not. It is best of course to talk to your doctor. I did look in the data base of scientific papers and found one instance of a recent discussion about muscle weakness and RA. This is the reference:

    I hope you might find some helpful information in this paper, however on a quick scan I did not find anything specifically about a flare.

    rick - moderator

    1. Hi ,

      Thanks for sharing your question. It's difficult to confirm whether they are directly related but I will say, based off my own experience, that I think so.

      Generally, I would consider myself a weak person. Flare-ups feel like stiff painful weights in my joints that cause me to be and feel weak. I would assume that because of this, my muscles aren't being worked as much as they would be otherwise. So by association, the muscles are weak? It does make sense but you should definitely talk to your rheum about it. A couple of years ago I saw a physical therapist and she told me that it would be beneficial for me to incorporate some easy exercises into my day to build muscle strength. The idea being that building my muscles will in turn help with the overall feeling of weakness that comes with having RA.

      Brain fog is definitely something many people with RA experience on a daily basis. I recently wrote this article about it if you want to see how you might relate:

      Wish you all the best,

      1. Thank you! I called the rheumatologist and she thinks it’s a flare, so I’m starting prednisone tomorrow. I appreciate your reply.

        1. Hi km2018. Sorry you are having these issues. First, let me say that it is important to bring any new symptoms to the attention of your doctor. Besides the importance for controlling RA, many symptoms have other potential causes and it is important to receive a proper diagnosis for treatment. Second, yes, RA can impact the muscles and connective tissues. In this article, our contributor Andrew wrote about muscle wasting with RA: In addition, this article from our contributor Nan looks at muscle pain: I also want to share with you this article on mixed connective tissue disorder, which can be comorbid with RA: Your doctor should be able to provide additional information. Hoping you get some answers and relief soon. Best, Richard ( Team)

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