Lupus Pain Relief Is Within Reach

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Close-up of unseen African American woman's hands holding knee in pain

More than 90% of people with lupus experience pain—especially in their muscles and joints—at some point. And for more than half of patients, joint pain is the first sign of the disease.

What’s more, about 30% of lupus patients suffer from chronic and severe muscle pain throughout their bodies—a condition known as fibromyalgia. Doctors have identified 18 different “tender points” in the body where fibromyalgia patients most commonly experience pain. With fibromyalgia, the pain occurs on both sides of the body at the same time. The points are located in regions on the:

  • Neck

  • Shoulders

  • Chest

  • Hips

  • Knees

  • Elbows

Medications Can Help

Many different medications can help control lupus and fibromyalgia pain:

  • Anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, Tylenol, Motrin, Naprosyn, Indocin, Relafen, and Celebrex reduce inflammation and pain. Some are available over the counter, while others require a prescription. Either way, you should only take medication under doctor’s supervision.

  • Corticosteroids like Deltasone and Medrol reduce the immune system response that may be causing the pain.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, anti-seizure agents, and selective Serotonin and Norepinepherine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) are commonly prescribed to provide consistent fibromyalgia pain relief.
  • The new drug Benlysta is delivered intravenously, or through a vein. It targets a specific protein that B cells—white blood cells that produce inflammation-causing autoantibodies—need to function. Scientists believe the drug works by cutting down on the number of wayward B cells involved in lupus.

Medications can cause side effects, some serious. For example, anti-inflammatories can irritate your stomach and cause diarrhea. Corticosteroids may lead to a wide range of side effects including acne, weight gain, and insomnia. Be sure to discuss any changes or new symptoms with your doctor.

Other Techniques and Therapies

While pain medications are helpful and often necessary, several other techniques may provide relief. Some of these approaches tackle pain directly, while others address emotions—such as stress and tension—that can add to your pain. Be sure to first discuss these methods with your doctor to make sure they’re appropriate for you.

  • Moist heat. This works better than dry heat for painful joints. Try soaking in a hot tub, taking a warm shower, or using a moist heated towel on painful areas.

  • Behavioral techniques. These include progressive relaxation, meditation, gentle yoga, tai chi, and guided imagery. In addition to relieving stress, these techniques help you take control of your pain rather than being a victim of it.

  • Alternative therapies. Acupuncture, biofeedback, and chiropractic adjustments may help with pain as well.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2019 Apr 23
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