Strategies for managing pain

Lupus Foundation of America

Resource Content

If you are like most people with lupus, you have experienced pain at some time, especially muscle and joint 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 aches are 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.

"Because there are risks and side effects with pain medications, it is good to know some other approaches to pain relief."
30% of people with lupus also have fibromyalgia, a common cause of widespread pain

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 application. 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.

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.

Other alternative health and healing practices also are used for pain relief and may be effective for you. Among these techniques are acupuncture and acupressure, and biofeedback. If you are considering complementary or alternative treatments for pain or other symptoms, discuss these first with your physician.


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