Living well with lupus

What is the best way to deal with my pain?

If you are like most people with lupus, you have experienced pain at some time, especially joint and muscle pain or headaches. However, the types of pain associated with lupus usually go away when inflammation and disease activity are brought under control.

Chronic and often severe muscle pain is the main symptom of fibromyalgia, a disease that affects about 30 percent of people with lupus. Although fibromyalgia is still not well understood, its diagnosis is based on widespread and often extreme pain and sensitivity at 18 "tender points." These points occur on both sides of the body at the same time, in the areas of the neck, shoulders, chest, hips, knees, and elbows.

A variety of medicines can help ease pain caused by lupus and fibromyalgia. Pain medicines are helpful, and in many instances necessary. But, because there are always risks and side effects with medications, it is good to know some other approaches to pain relief.

Joint and muscle pain can benefit from heat and/or cold applications. Moist heat soothes painful joints much better than dry heat; soaking in a hot tub, sauna, or whirlpool, using a moist heated towel, or taking a hot shower can be helpful. Ice or cold applications are advisable only for strained or twisted muscles or injuries.  Follow the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) method to relieve pain, reduce swelling, and speed healing. Begin right after the injury occurs and continue for at least 48 hours. (National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Disorders). 

Behavioral techniques, such as progressive relaxation, meditation, self-hypnosis, focused breathing, low-impact yoga, Tai Chi, and guided imagery also can be effective tools for pain management. By directing your mind’s attention away from the experience of pain, these methods help to relieve the stress and tension that can actually make pain worse. Safe and easy to do at home, these techniques have the added benefit of allowing you to take control of the pain, rather than just reacting to and suffering with it.

Alternative and otherwise non-conventional health and healing practices also are used for pain relief and may be effective for you. Among these techniques are acupuncture and acupressure, biofeedback, and chiropractic adjustments. It is important that anyone with lupus who is considering complementary or alternative treatments for pain or other symptoms first discuss such treatments with his or her physician.


Medically reviewed on July 09, 2013