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Lupus & Chronic Pain


Lupus & Chronic Pain

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Affecting nearly 2 million Americans, lupus is an autoimmune disease that can produce symptoms that may be temporary, recurring, intermittent, or permanent. Approximately 90-95 percent of lupus patients experience some type of muscle and/or joint pain. This type of discomfort is sometimes long-lasting, especially if an underlying condition is involved. Fibromyalgia, which affects roughly 30 percent of lupus patients, is a common source of chronic pain for lupus sufferers.

Recurring Pain Flares

Even if you don’t also have fibromyalgia, discomfort from lupus can be almost chronic-like in nature if you have periodic pain flares. Recurring joint pain, stiffness, and swelling that gets worse during flare-ups may be coupled with discomfort that includes:

  • Chest pain
  • Itchiness caused by hive-like lesions
  • Headaches

Management with Medication

If you do have chronic pain related to lupus and fibromyalgia, there are medications that may reduce your discomfort enough to improve your daily quality of life. However, precautions should be taken when using certain pain medications for long periods of time. Anti-inflammatory drugs could also contribute to digestive problems with long-term use.

Heat and Ice Therapy

Chronic joint and muscle pain may become less of a distraction if you apply heat and ice to the affected areas. Moist heat, in particular, tends to be especially soothing for painful joints. You can benefit from this type of heat by taking a warm bath or shower, soaking in a whirlpool or sauna, or using a heated, moist towel.

Cold applications help ease pain by reducing the inflammation that’s often associated with lupus. Ice can be applied with ice packs or with cooling gels. If you use heat and cold to manage your chronic discomfort, limit applications to 15-20 minutes at a time.

Behavioral Techniques

Some lupus sufferers are able to manage any chronic pain they may be experiencing by taking their minds off their discomfort. While this is sometimes easier said than done, there are behavioral techniques that may help you achieve this goal. Possibilities include:

  • Meditation or guided imagery
  • Progressive relaxation
  • Focused breathing
  • Yoga, tai chi, and other controlled movement disciplines
  • Self-hypnosis

You may also be able to minimize chronic pain if you have lupus by getting regular exercise to help keep your bones, muscles, and joints strong. If land-based exercises are too painful, water-based exercises can provide similar benefits. A diet that includes fresh fruits, green, leafy veggies, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins can also be good for your musculoskeletal system in a way that eases discomfort from chronic pain and flare-ups.