If you have a diagnosis of lupus, you have surely experienced pain whether it be muscle or joint pain, headaches and even chest pain. Lupus can be a horrible thing to endure and something that can inflict pain every single day; crippling pain that makes completing your daily tasks very difficult. There are a number of prescription medications that are used to try and manage the symptoms of lupus and prevent long-term damage to the body. However, often pain medications have side effects and it can be difficult to find the correct pain medications that work well for you. Even when you do find the right pain medications, they never completely stop all pain. So it can be helpful to know some ways to manage your pain without the aid of prescription medications (or perhaps in addition to these).
Joint and muscle pain are one of the most common symptoms experienced with lupus. This can be eased through the manipulation of temperature. We’ve all had a day when we’re just hanging out for a hot shower or soak in the tub at the end of the day because we have had a hard day and are sore, with lupus this is no different (except the hard days are more often and the pain is more intense). Dry heat can help but the heat that has some moisture can be better so things such as a hot bath, sauna, spa, hot shower or even a wet, hot towel can help.
Another helpful way to ease joint and muscle pain (and to improve mood too) is to exercise. Obviously, with lupus no one expects you to run a marathon and it is important that you listen to your body, respect the pain and know your limits. However, with no exercise at all, the body can become deconditioned which will actually increase your joint and muscle pains. Low impact exercises such as swimming yoga and Pilates can be a good place to start here.
Physiotherapy and massage
Attending physiotherapy appointments can be a way to take the benefits of exercise just that little bit further. A physiotherapist will have a good understanding of how the muscles and joints work and may be able to give you specific techniques or exercises to target your most painful areas (or those most prone to flare ups). Another benefit from physiotherapy visits is that often they also provide some massage therapy and a good massage will do wonders for aching muscles.
Changing your mindset
This isn’t about saying that the pain is “all in your head” and if you realize that it will stop. The pain of lupus is real and can be crippling. However, there are techniques you can use that will actually alter the way that you experience pain which can, in turn, make the pain less intense (all while not actually changing the level of the pain). It sounds counter-intuitive, right?
Try this exercise as an example. make a fist with your dominant hand by clenching your muscles as tight as you can in a ball. Hold that fist for 1-2 minutes. This type of clenching can be painful and you will likely get an ache in your hand. Pay attention to where this pain is while you hold it. Did you notice something?
If you did this properly, you would have noticed that the pain started in your hand, but the longer you held that fist, the further up your arm that pain spread. This shows how the way we respond to pain can actually increase our pain levels. Relaxation techniques such as breathing, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, and meditation can help with this. Not only do these techniques help with the management of pain, but they can also help lower overall stress and we could all benefit from that.
Be aware that the techniques we have described are to be completed in addition with whatever your medical professional has advised and that you should always discuss these things with your doctor prior to making any changes. However, in conjunction with what the doctor has ordered, you may find that these techniques just give you a little bit of quality of life back.
For further information about lupus and managing your own pain, please see the links below.