Managing Lupus and Joint Pain
Joint pain and arthritis are two of the most common symptoms of lupus SLE. For almost half of people with lupus, these were the very first symptoms they noticed, according to the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA). The LFA states that 90 percent of lupus patients will experience some form of joint pain.
Lupus most often occurs for women in their childbearing years. It is awful to be in your teens, 20s or 30s and feeling like your grandma with achy and swollen joints.
When I was first diagnosed, my untreated joint pain was so bad that I was able to sit with a friend of mine, a 70-something Holocaust survivor, and compare notes on musculoskeletal pain for hours. I was 24 at the time.
A good rheumatologist will examine all of your joints each time you come in for an appointment, bending them and checking for swelling and redness. He or she may also prescribe medication to reduce the discomfort.
Thankfully, arthritis relating to lupus is rarely progressive (so, it isn’t your grandmother’s arthritis!) and very rarely will lupus patients need any kind of joint replacements.
This may happen to a small minority, but the biggest obstacle for joint pain is trying to soldier through it and give yourself as much relief as possible from the nagging pain.
There are several strategies I use to help combat my arthritis, although on really really bad days, sometimes nothing seems to do it. But I find these solutions help make the bad days fewer and farther between. Though they still come, being able to cope with them makes them a bit less overwhelming.
Plenty of Sleep
The first key step to keeping my joints feeling their best is lots of sleep. I have no idea why this is the case, as I have never had a health provider tell me this would help and I have never read in any literature on lupus and sleep helping arthritis pains.
But for me, if I don’t sleep enough, the pain can be very intense when I wake up in the mornings. As stiffness upon waking up is one of the major symptoms of arthritis within lupus, I think this may be related.
If I get enough sleep, my joints hardly bother me upon waking up. And if I wake up with severe joint pain and then go back to sleep for a couple of hours, this usually helps ease the pain.
While many of us with lupus either don’t work or have flexible jobs because of our illnesses, there will still be times in our lives when we have to get up and function on little sleep. I spoke with my doctor about this and was given medication that made it a bit less painful to wake up on fewer hours of sleep — you may want to do the same.
Otherwise, in order to keep healthy and pain-free joints, I recommend you get as much sleep as you feel your body needs. Obviously, don’t lie in bed all day, but if you feel you need 10 or 11 hours per night in order to keep your body balanced, then aim for that amount.
Fish and Evening Primrose Oils
Another tip for keeping your joints happy and healthy is taking fish oil and evening primrose oil. You may feel like an old lady (or man!) buying them, but they are a great way to help you keep your joints supple.
Several doctors have recommended them to me, and I find they do help with joint stiffness and pain.
One doctor I had told me the fish oil might make your breath smell, so make sure you’ve got a good friend or family member nearby who can tell if your mouth smells unappealing. If that’s the case, you can always reduce your intake and your fish breath will disappear.
Evening primrose oil is a great addition to your nightly rotation of medicine (which I assume you already take if you’re reading this article) and is known to keep inflammation in check with its fatty acids. As a bonus, if you experience breast pain or eczema, it can help ease symptoms of those as well.