Life strain–related tiredness and illness-related fatigue in individuals with ankylosing spondylitis




To examine the nature of fatigue and how it is managed in daily life situations by individuals with ankylosing spondylitis (AS).


Twelve informants, 8 women and 4 men ages 30–59 years, who had lived with the diagnosis of AS for 6 months to 36 years, participated in qualitative interviews. They were asked to describe their daily life during good and bad days of AS, and to give examples of everyday situations where they experienced fatigue and what they did to recover. The text analysis consisted of identifying and coding meaningful statements, sorting the codes into categories, and condensing themes.


Two separate conditions of fatigue were identified. One consisted of comprehensible, manageable tiredness related to a life strain that was exacerbated by having AS. Life strain–related tiredness indicated to the respondents that they should rest or temporarily slow down, and this protected them from overexertion. The other condition was an unfamiliar and unmanageable fatigue that was related to their illness. Illness-related fatigue was accompanied by unbearable pain, severe stiffness, and heaviness of the body that could not be alleviated by the individual. This condition was considered a sign of the onset or a flare up of inflammation.


Fatigue in the individuals with AS varied over time, and took the form of 2 different conditions. Life strain–related tiredness had a positive aspect in that it protected against overstrain and guided life strain regulation. In contrast, illness-related fatigue was nonpurposive for the individuals and seems to call for medical therapy.