Many people experience chronic pain due to lupus, but there are just as many treatments available to help.
Pain is one of the most common symptoms of lupus. Many people with lupus experience chronic pain, and for some people, this pain is severe. Lupus pain can occur throughout the body and can make daily activities difficult.
Treatment for lupus pain depends on the severity of symptoms and on what works best for you, but often includes physical therapy, pain relieving medication, and immunosuppressive medication.
For many people with lupus, home-relief methods such as rest and heat are also an important part of managing pain.
Lupus causes inflammation throughout your body. This often leads to painful joint swelling and muscle stiffness. People with lupus commonly experience pain in their neck, shoulders, arms, hands, and feet. Pain sometimes moves and affects different joints at different times.
Lupus can also lead to other types of pain. This includes:
- Hypermobility: Hypermobility causes your joints to be overly flexible. It can lead to difficulty balancing, pain, and joint dislocation.
- Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is more common in people with lupus than in people without lupus. Fibromyalgia causes pain all over the body.
- Groin pain: Lupus can lead to a serious complication called avascular necrosis that can lead to bone damage and pain. This complication happens when the blood supply to the bone is disrupted. It’s important to tell your doctor if you experience this type of pain so that they can address it quickly.
Pain is worse at night for a number of autoimmune and pain conditions, including lupus. Doctors and medical researchers don’t know exactly what causes this increase in pain. It may be because daytime medications wear off by night or because hormone and protein levels in your body drop change during the night.
For instance, your body releases less of the hormone cortisol overnight, and that may increase inflammation. Additionally, as you sleep, your body releases more of certain chemicals, such as melatonin and prolactin. This leads to more immune system activity and could result in more inflammation.
Some people might have mild pain that comes and goes, while others have severe pain almost every day. Plus, lupus can be unpredictable, even from flare to flare in the same person.
A person with lupus might have a flare that lasts only a day or so and experience mild pain. A few weeks later, that same person could have a flare of severe pain that lasts 2 weeks.
There are several ways to manage lupus pain. You and your doctor can work together to can find treatments that work best for you and for your lifestyle. You might need to try a few different things before you find the best plan for your plan.
Treatment options for lupus pain include:
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy can help strengthen your muscles to better support your joints. A physical therapist can also teach you pain management techniques.
- Pain-relieving medications: Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, and muscle relaxers can help relieve lupus pain.
- Immunosuppressive medications: Immunosuppressive medications can help lower inflammation throughout your body.
- Alternative treatments: Some people report that alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage therapy, meditation, chiropractic care, or acupressure help them manage lupus pain.
What helps lupus pain at home?
There are several steps you can take to manage lupus pain at home. These include:
- Getting exercise: Low impact exercise can help you manage pain. A physical therapist can help you develop an exercise plan.
- Using heat: Applying heat can reduce your pain. You can try a hot bath or shower for a simple approach. You can also use a hot compress, heating pad, or towel directly on a painful joint.
- Getting enough rest: Making sure to get enough rest can help your body recover and can reduce pain.
- Avoiding painful motions: There might be some motions or activities that are always painful. Paying attention to how you feel as you go about your day can help you recognize and then avoid those activities.
- Reducing stress: Stress can increase muscle tension and make your pain worse. Reducing your stress levels can reduce your pain.
Lupus pain is chronic and can often be managed at home and with the help of your doctor. However, there are times you might need to seek urgent medical care. Lupus is a
- severe stomach pain
- severe chest pain
- a fever over 102°F (39°C)
- swelling in the arms or legs
- rapid changes in mood
- excessive bleeding or bruising
- shortness of breath
- a combination of severe symptoms such as high fever, stiff neck, and headache
Living with lupus
Living with a chronic and painful condition like lupus can be overwhelming and isolating, but you don’t have to manage it on your own. There are resources you can turn to for help, including:
- Lupus Research Alliance (LRA): You’ll find a community forum where you connect with other people who have lupus when you visit The LRA. This organization is also dedicated to research and advocacy.
- The Lupus Foundation of America: The Lupus Foundation of America is a great resource if you’re looking for local and online support. They can help you find community support groups, medical answers, financial assistance, and more.
- The Autoimmune Association: You’ll find resources such as educational materials, support groups, doctor matching, and more with the Autoimmune Association.
- Pain Connection Support Groups: You can find online support and community for chronic pain any day of the week with a Pain Connection Support Group.
Lupus is a painful condition that can be difficult to manage. Pain can occur throughout the body and can make it hard to enjoy everyday life. Some people experience pain that gets worse overnight and interrupts sleep.
Treatment can help alleviate pain. The best treatment depends on factors such as the severity of your symptoms and your lifestyle.
Common treatment options include medication and physical therapy. Many people also use home pain-relieving methods, such as low impact exercise and heat.