Stretching, however slow or small the movement, is an effective, easy, cost-free way to address your lupus-related pain. Stretches can be done in your office chair, in your bed, standing at the bus stop, or lying on your living room floor.
If your mobility is severely affected due to pain, start small with movements like moving your head slowly from side to side, letting your eyes lead, gazing further beyond your shoulder each time. If you can’t lift your limbs, start by stretching your hands or doing slow circles with your ankles.
Work your way up to fuller, slow-paced stretches like restoration yoga or Tai Chi. If you can’t afford to take a class, there are a variety of free YouTube videos you can move along to.
Envelope Yourself in Moist Heat
Moist heat is recommended, as apposed to dry heat, to soothe aching joints. Relax in a hot tub or sauna, lie under a moist heated towel, or my lupus pain management go-to, take a hot shower.
Take a Breath
The next time you experience physical pain, notice what happens to your breath. Your breathing becomes shallow and your body tenses, adding to the pain that you are already feeling.
By deepening our breath, we relax our bodies almost immediately.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose over five slow counts, then exhale through your mouth on another five counts. You can imagine you are breathing into the affected area, filling it with healing air, and then breathing out the toxins and pain.
Never underestimate the power our breath and mind can have in both increasing and decreasing the pain we are feeling.
Once you’ve tried different breathing techniques, you can choose to take it to the next level and explore meditation for lupus. Mindfulness meditation has been shown in clinical trials to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent and accomplished meditators can reduce it by 90 percent.
Learning to meditate can feel intimidating, so start with something simple you can fit into your everyday routine. There are different ways you can meditate beyond sitting on the floor cross-legged.
You can choose to give yourself five minutes of quiet each day where you turn everything off; the radio, the television, your cell phone, your computer, etc. If you can’t just sit motionless for those five minutes, give yourself a task like washing dishes, a crossword, or tackling a page in a coloring book.
It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you are present. If you are coloring, concentrate on that task only, and let all other thoughts or sensations wash over you.
Gradually you can increase the amount of “quiet time” you give yourself.
You can also do walking mediations, where you can focus on one sound you hear or one sensation you feel, like the wind on your skin. Taking time to be mindful will train your mind to become less emotionally invested and distracted by your physical pain.
Become a Food Detective
Start monitoring how you feel when you eat certain foods. Do you feel more pain when you eat some foods than others?
Take that food out of your diet for three months and then re-introduce it to discover its effects. Remember to only eliminate one food at a time.
Take stock of what is in your fridge and pantry. Load up on anti-inflammatory leafy greens and avoid processed food and sugar.
Talk It Out
Being in physical pain can often alienate us from others. Feelings of loneliness and anger can only exacerbate the symptoms you are experiencing.
Taking to a psychologist, social worker, lupus support group (online or in person), or a good friend is a good way to work through how you are feeling about your health. If you aren’t ready to talk quite yet, buy a journal to store your thoughts and questions.
Celebrate the Small Victories
Walking an extra block, climbing that extra stair, being able to lift your arm to reach that cup — it’s important to celebrate these small victories in the life long process of lupus pain management.
If we make a commitment to recognize our limits without viewing them as weaknesses, to do what we can to understand what our body is telling us, and to give ourselves permission to voice our feelings about the pain we are feeling, we lay the foundation for a life of increased quality of health and happiness.