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What Are My Options for Lupus Joint Pain Treatment?

Joint pain is one of the most common symptoms lupus patients go through and can be extremely debilitating depending on how severe your lupus is. There are several treatments a patient can try to address this particular symptom: but it’s important to understand what exactly causes it.

So what are the options you have for lupus joint pain treatment? There are several primary treatment options you can explore (usually done in a clinic) or secondary methods of treatment that you can do by yourself at home. Typically, a combination of these two treatments is the best way to manage the chronic and acute pain that comes from lupus joint pain.

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Primary Treatment Options for Lupus Joint Pain

Joint pain from lupus can be managed with three primary treatment methods (if the patient is having active treatment with a professional provider), depending on the severity of the pain and the overall condition of the patient.

1) Medication

For cases of mild chronic or moderate acute pain, medication is by far the most common management for lupus joint pain. A patient can simply get analgesics to relieve inflammation, or any other NSAIDs to relieve pain.

If your joint pain is particularly mild, there’s no need to get a prescription for the medications you have to take – though it’s still important to be clear with your doctor that you are planning to take any meds for the pain. Lupus patients who have long-term conditions or lupus symptoms (like lupus arthritis) can access these medications by themselves, which makes pain management much easier.

Here are the specific medications that might be used for your pain:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Medications like naproxen or aspirin are some of the most common medications recommended to manage lupus joint pain, especially when you experience a lupus flare. Stronger medications will usually require a prescription.
  • Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs). If the lupus symptoms a patient is experiencing are more closely related to rheumatic disease, DMARDs may be a better option. Hydroxychloroquine in particular is especially effective, even when combined with NSAIDs.
  • Corticosteroids. Steroids are extremely versatile treatments, able to manage anything from a lupus flare-up to a skin rash. However, corticosteroids are commonly used to manage inflammation around the joints, preventing cases of acute or chronic pain.

Medications are often used as the front-line option to make sure that your joint pain doesn’t escalate – however, it’s important to keep a close eye on the exact dosage of the medications you’re taking. Some medications are extremely potent and can cause organ damage or harm healthy tissue.

In general, any medications that can help with inflammation can often be enough to manage lupus joint pain, especially for SLE patients. If you’re not sure about what medications to take, consult a medical professional – you should never try taking medications without medical advice.

2) Physical Therapy

For long-term cases that often result in chronic pain, physical therapy can help your body acclimatize to movement more and reduce or prevent joint pain entirely. While this may not be completely effective for all patients, it’s a great way to maintain your body in good form to mitigate the effects of lupus symptoms at least for a while.

Physical therapy can come in many forms – from targeted exercises to chiropractic treatments. It’s important to have physical therapy done under the advice of a professional: improper form can aggravate joint pain and may make your overall condition worse.

Here are 3 possible ways physical therapy can help with your joint pain:

  • Mobility exercises. For older patients, mobility exercises not only relieve joint pain but also improve their overall mobility long-term. Since lupus can often progress into conditions like lupus arthritis (or can be accompanied by rheumatoid arthritis), mobility exercises drastically improve their quality of life long-term.
  • Re-education exercises. Lupus patients who have started their treatments late or had a late diagnosis will often have an advanced degree of joint pain, which can be relieved with medications. Following this, it’s often best to go through re-education exercises so you get the normal range of your movements again, and prevent your joint pain from getting worse.
  • Resiliency exercises. Some patients may have caught their lupus early enough that they can actively work to prevent joint pain via physical therapy. Resiliency exercises stave off severe joint pain for as long as possible and can help patients maintain a good level of physical mobility even when their lupus progresses.

Strictly speaking, you don’t need to get physical therapy from a healthcare provider – there are trained physical therapists who can administer this kind of treatment. However, it’s still crucial that you inform your doctor about taking this type of therapy since it can affect other treatments you may be taking such as steroids.

Joint symptoms won’t always be relieved with physical therapy, but it can help with the overall treatment you’ll be using – especially if you’ve managed to detect your lupus early.

3) Surgery

In extremely advanced cases of lupus (or lupus patients that have similar pre-existing conditions), surgical options can be done directly on the affected joint to relieve pressure and inflammation. While effective, this option is usually seen as a last resort as it’s an invasive procedure that can affect the patient’s quality of life long-term.

Surgical options are only typically recommended if the patient’s mobility has been severely compromised by their lupus since the surgical procedure will usually replace the affected joint entirely. While this can effectively deal with joint pain long-term, it can have some adverse risks that can’t be fully accounted for.

Surgery areas typically include the following:

  • Hip replacement surgery. Since the hips control the majority of the movements of the lower body, surgery can be considered to replace part or whole of the hip to relieve pain, inflammation, and overall pressure on the joint.
  • Knee replacement surgery. The knees are another common area that receives surgery for lupus joint pain. Since this part of the body bears your weight, it’s usually not recommended for patients who are obese or have pre-existing conditions that affect the knees.
  • Wrist replacement surgery. Wrist surgeries for lupus pain are extremely rare since it’s a delicate area, and many healthcare providers would rather go for medication or therapy before attempting it.

Surgical options for lupus joint pain have a higher risk of developing adverse complications compared to medications and physical therapy, but for some patients, it may be the most straightforward option to manage their joint pain. Please follow the advice of your medical professional before considering this pain management method.

However, this isn’t to say that surgery is not a good option. If your healthcare provider is experienced with this type of treatment and you have a good post-procedure aftercare routine to follow, then you’ll likely have better overall results.

Managing Daily Lupus Joint Pain

The primary care methods discussed above are your options if you’re getting professional or medical treatment, but it’s entirely possible to also manage your lupus symptoms on your own. A patient should take note that self-management of lupus joint pain should never be done without the advice of a medical professional.

For most lupus patients, the self-management of joint pain will become more common the more their condition is understood, or if primary treatments have proven effective in getting the majority of your joint symptoms under control.

1) Balance Rest and Activity

While it’s important to keep your joints active to prevent them from stiffening from inflammation, it’s also crucial to keep them rested to prevent them from being strained. Keep in mind that the stiffness of your joints makes you more prone to injury – so getting enough rest while still maintaining physical activity is a good way to mitigate lupus joint pain.

This is easier to accomplish if you have a physical therapist to evaluate your condition, but if you don’t it’s still fine! Simply get adequate amounts of rest and avoid overexertion. Ideally, you should get enough sleep, keep the right posture, and overall avoid straining yourself.

2) Boost Your Immune System

As an autoimmune disease, lupus symptoms can be affected by how your immune system is holding up. By taking the right medications (or in this case, eating healthily) your immune system gets a much-needed boost, calming down its responses.

The immune system tends to respond well to dietary changes – however, for cases of severe lupus, it’s best to stick to medications first and back it up with dietary changes second. For even better results, try asking a nutritionist for their recommendations on what diet you should be following for lupus joint pain.

3) Avoid Smoking

Smoking affects the body in significant ways, especially so if you have lupus. The severity of your lupus doesn’t really change the effects that smoking has on your body – any trace of nicotine is enough to disrupt the balance of your body.

This doesn’t stop at smoking either: even second-hand smoke can trigger adverse effects and complications from lupus joint pain. It’s best to look for changes in your environment if secondhand smoke is a concern.

4) Reduce Stress

Stress, while admittedly a little difficult to quantify, can have drastic effects on your body’s immune system. The higher your stress levels are, the more strain there is on your body and the immune system overall – which can worsen any joint pain symptoms that you’re experiencing.

Meditation and other similar mental exercises can help prevent a lupus flare if medications are too strong of an option. However, it’s important to consider that this method is not an effective way of managing moderate to severe cases of lupus joint pain.

5) Get Biological Therapy

A relatively new way of managing lupus joint pain is the use of new medications called biologics. These medications target the B-cells, which are the white blood cells that are responsible for the heightened immune response that lupus patients typically experience.

Biological therapy is still considered an exploratory treatment, though specific medications have received certification for their use in lupus patients. Consult your healthcare provider for further details on this type of treatment.

When To Call A Doctor

Given that the joint pain experienced by lupus patients can vary widely depending on their condition, there’s always a little bit of confusion about the best time to call a doctor. Since everyone’s pain tolerance is different, what can be unbearable for one patient can likely be managed fairly easily by another.

While a consultation with your doctor is the best way to make sure whether or not something drastic needs to be done about your lupus joint pain, here are some general guidelines that you can follow about calling a medical professional:

  • If the pain suddenly escalates within a very short time
  • The pain no longer responds to your usual methods of managing it
  • Pain is accompanied by other symptoms affecting the area around the joint
  • A general feeling of fatigue or malaise
  • Joint pain that suddenly gets worse during certain body movements
  • Chronic pain that suddenly flares to acute pain without any reasonable trigger
  • If you’re over the age of 50 or have bone-related pre-existing conditions
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with conditions like diabetes or kidney disease
  • Any history of autoimmune disease in your family that’s linked to lupus

Experience Long-Term Pain Relief With aNu Aesthetics

SLE patients can often go through a lot of pain as part of the usual lupus symptoms. However, lupus patients also have plenty of ways to manage joint pain from systemic lupus. But before choosing a pain management method, it’s important to know the exact cause of your pain before going for a solution. This is less likely to cause adverse effects and improve the overall outcome of your treatment.

aNu Aesthetics has extensive experience in helping our patients overcome conditions like muscle pain and sagging skin. Our well-trained staff can help you handle medical and cosmetic concerns efficiently and safely for short and long-term treatments. Book an appointment with us today.

Rewind The Clock Both Outside And In

Regenerative therapy has helped countless patients look and feel like the person they were years before. Call us today to book your regenerative therapy consultation.


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