A dramatic angled shot of a person sleeping and the bottom of their foot and toes are glowing in pain.

A New RA Foot Pain and Sleep Troubles

My sleep has been disrupted lately, mostly due to a new a RA pain I have been having in my left foot. It affects the joints right under my big and pinky toes, but also tends to spread to the middle of my foot as well.

What this new RA foot pain feels like

The best way I can describe this pain is a combination of a dull, aching throb and stiffness in the joints; there’s not really any burning or tingling (i.e., no nerve pain, which makes it more likely that this is joint-related), just a consistent dull ache.

It has gotten to the point that getting up in the middle of the night necessitates shuffling around my apartment (rather than walking “normally”). It continually wakes me up in the middle of the night.

A cycle of pain, sleep issues, and fatigue

One of the most irritating parts of finding a new RA pain—or even having an RA flare—is that it furthers the cycle between new pain, sleep troubles, and fatigue. Although I’ve talked about this cyclic pattern before in a previous article, I think it’s important to talk about again, particularly as this is now the second time that I’ve experienced the effects of this sleep disruption.

Dreading that RA fatigue

When I experience a new pain (like in my left foot), I don’t sleep well; when I don’t sleep well, I feel more fatigued; when I feel more fatigued, I try and sleep more, which… you get the picture. Making matters worse is the fact that fatigue is one of the most formidable symptoms of RA!

When you are not sleeping well in addition to having RA, you are going to feel more fatigued than normal, which can lead to all sorts of other problems. It is clear then that new pains, sleep, and fatigue are intricately connected in having RA.

Relief for this new RA foot pain

So, what have I been doing to mitigate this new pain?

More on this topic

1. Taking ibuprofen. It is not ideal to consistently take NSAIDs but they have helped me manage this particular pain.

2. Trying not to get frustrated at this pain. While it is annoying, being frustrated and angry just makes me more fatigued than I already am. This necessitates me reframing my thoughts on the pain.

Instead of getting mad about how much sleep I am losing, I try to think about: “What can I do right now with this time that I have, now that I’m not sleeping?” If it is just that I need mental clarity, then I do not do anything. If I want to do something with that time, I will read a book or watch a documentary.

Shifting the conversation in my head from a tone of frustration with this pain and having RA to one of what I need at this moment to feel comfortable and in control is crucial for mitigating any new pain that I’m feeling.

3. Accepting that this is painful right now. It hurts, and I do not like it. No one would; but, because I am able to recognize and vocalize the pain I am having, I know that I am in touch with my body and what it is feeling.

New pains are part of RA

And I know I am not alone in experiencing new RA pains. As individuals with RA, we are preparing for any new pain or ailment that this illness throws our way. I am wondering: have you been having any new RA-related pains lately? If so, what have your experiences been and how have you managed them?

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