Todd Kuslikis

Todd Kuslikis

MMT, MPA
Knee Pain Specialist and Injury Prevention Expert

Is Lupus Causing My Joint Pain or Is It Really Osteoarthritis?

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While joint pain may feel the same at the moment, the causes (and treatment options) can sometimes be wildly different. Do you know what is causing your pain? Could it be Lupus joint pain or arthritis? Read on to find out. 

Written by: Coach Todd 
 

When first diagnosed with Lupus, some of the symptoms you’ve been experiencing are finally made clear. Struggles like headaches, hair loss, and rashes suddenly make sense but… is it the Lupus causing your joint pain?

… or could another disease be the culprit?

Joint pain is a very common complaint in those with and without Lupus, leading to difficulty with one’s usual daily activities.

The first step to determining how you can manage the symptoms is figuring out what the cause of your pain is – Lupus or Osteoarthritis. 

 

What is Lupus?

lupus joint pain | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, commonly shortened to Lupus, is an autoimmune illness affecting the entire body.

Lupus is an ongoing condition without a known cure at the time, but there are treatments and medications to help manage the symptoms.

With Lupus, symptoms normally come and go. These are called “flare-ups” and for some unknown reason, the immune system begins to attack the body’s healthy tissue.

While the immune system normally acts as the body’s protector, Lupus flips that role, sparking dozens of painful symptoms with one of them being joint pain.

 

General Arthritis vs. Lupus Arthritis

While Lupus is not a form of arthritis, joint pain is one of the most common symptoms. However, since Osteoarthritis is also very common, it’s important to determine which disease is causing your pain because the treatment is quite different.

Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear of the body’s joints, creating stiffness in a particular joint. It normally shows up in larger joints such as the shoulders or knees. Most of the time, the pain won’t affect bilaterally joints, meaning both of your shoulders or both of your knees.

lupus joint pain | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Osteoarthritis is considered “noninflammatory” arthritis. While you may experience swelling, the inflammation isn’t causing the joint pain, it’s the wear and tear of the cartilage. 

Lupus arthritis, however, is caused by inflammation that shows up on both sides of the body. This swelling and redness are typically felt and seen in the smaller joints first, like the fingers and wrists. As well, the pain may only occur during a flare-up, then decrease or change locations.

Lupus does not cause permanent damage to the joint through inflammation whereas Osteoarthritis does. As well, it would be an extremely rare patient with lupus who experienced arthritis as their only manifestation.

 

How Do Doctors Distinguish Inflammatory from Noninflammatory Arthritis?

So, which are you experiencing? Sometimes it’s just to hard to figure out on your own and a trip to see your doctor or PT will help. 

When trying to determine whether your pain is caused by Lupus or arthritis, there are seven signs to look for that point doctors toward a diagnosis of Lupus being the culprit:

lupus joint pain | Feel Good Life with Coach Todd

Along with laboratory tests, these signs can help confirm a diagnosis in people with inflammatory arthritis. 

 

Natural Treatment for Lupus Joint Pain

Once you have visited with your doctor to determine the overall diagnosis and create a treatment for Lupus joint pain, there are additional steps you may want to take.

These steps can help to ease the pain during a flare-up and avoid excessive pain medication.

Feel Good Life - Coach Todd

Begin by targeting the inflammation through improved dieting habits. Certain foods have been shown to reduce inflammation within the body to help reduce pain and swelling in the joints. 

Turmeric milk, for example, includes the active ingredient curcumin to reduce inflammation and has proven effective in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. You can sip on this warmed milk and teaspoon of turmeric before bed or upon waking to help reduce morning stiffness. You can also add honey to enhance the taste.

Flaxseeds are also a great anti-inflammatory, pain-reducing food. Simply grind two tablespoons a day over cereals, salads, or even smoothies to receive its healing benefits.

Apple cider water is another great option to reduce inflammation. This combination of raw apple cider vinegar and warm water increases the production of Hydrochloric Acid. This compound, believed to be deficient in those with Lupus, aids the body’s detoxification process and enhances nutrient absorption.

Feel Good Life - Coach Todd

After the diet is addressed, you need to address the muscles surrounding the afflicted joints.

Muscle pain and tenderness, especially during flare-ups, occur in as many as 50 percent of those with Lupus. Performing gentle, full-body exercises can provide Lupus joint pain relief. Exercises done in the pool alleviates pressure in the joints, making exercise more bearable.

 

Natural Treatment for Osteoarthritis

Now, if your joint pain is caused by Osteoarthritis and not Lupus, there is a completely different treatment plan to follow. Since Osteoarthritis is the single most common type of arthritis, someone with Lupus may also have this non-inflammatory type of arthritis.

If this is the case, try the following steps to naturally treat your arthritis symptoms.

Feel Good Life - Coach Todd

To start, focus on the joint itself with joint-specific friendly exercise. If struggle with:

  • Shoulder pain, exercises that focus on improving your mobility may help reduce pain.
  • Knee pain, gentle strengthening exercises are a great place to start
  • Back pain, stretches that open up the joint space will provide relief
  • Neck pain, choosing exercises that improve stability will lessen discomfort

Feel Good Life - Coach ToddNext, try eating a balanced diet filled with nutrient-rich foods. These foods include broccoli, citrus fruits, fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, garlic, green tea, low-fat dairy products, nuts, and plant-based oils.

Feel Good Life - Coach Todd

Finally, becoming actively involved in managing weight will go a long way in reducing joint pain caused by osteoarthritis. Staying active and eating right can certainly help, however, if weight is a specific concern for you, make sure to speak with your health and nutrition professional to ensure you are on the right path.

While Lupus joint pain symptoms may feel similar to those of Osteoarthritis, the causes and treatments may vary. That’s why it’s so important to determine the cause of your joint pain before attempting treatments.

Osteoarthritis will require more joint-specific treatments while Lupus may take a full-body approach.

Once the cause is determined, however, you can begin the right plan for you to reduce joint pain and start living again.

 

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