Lupus and Joint Function

Joint pain and stiffness is a very common symptom to have if you suffer from the chronic disease lupus. It is also usually the first symptom patients tell their doctors about. The symptoms of arthritis that lupus patients experience differs from what rheumatoid sufferers feel.

What the lupus patient has is not as damaging to the joint as rheumatoid arthritis is and the lupus patients arthritis symptoms are temporary.

The joints most often affected in lupus are the fingers, wrists, and knees. Another important fact to note is that when a joint on one side of the body is affected the joint on the other side will be also. For instance, say the right knee is affected; the left knee on the other side of the body will also be affected.

The lupus patient may also experience morning stiffness, swelling or a feeling of heat in the joint.


There are some joint complications that are rare, but may be experienced by some lupus patients. The complications are: Osteonecrosis, which is damage to the hip joint that can lead to arthritis. The patient may also develope nodules in the small joints of their hands. Other complications are tendinitis, tendon rupture, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Lupus Joint Care Tips

It is important that patients learn how to care for their joints to minimize discomfort. Here are some tips for caring for joints:

    Your doctor can instruct you as to when to apply heat and when to apply cold to your joints to bring you some measure of relief.

    You can support the painful or swollen joint with pillows, blankets or if the doctor orders – splints.

    Elevate and rest the joint as much as you can to reduce swelling.

    Your doctor will give you any other instructions that you may need to follow concerning your joints.

    Take all medications as prescribed to reduce pain and help with inflammation.

    Warm showers or baths can less stiffness.

    If your joint is red, warm to touch or swollen, you should not bear any weight on it. Sit or lie and elevate the joint and follow any directions your doctor may have given you.

Range of Motion Exercise

Your doctor or therapist will also instruct you on how to do a exercise called ROM or range of motion. This gentle movement in all directions, helps to prevent stiffness in the joint. This exercise is used to help allieviate inflammation and stiffness.

Occupational and physical therapy is used to help the lupus patient gain strength and motion in their joints. It may be beneficial to hire someone to help you with daily chores until you are feeling unwell or have joint discomfort, at least until you feel better or can do things yourself.

Exercise is very important for maintaining optimum joint function but you should be cautious to wait until joints are feeling better and ready to sustain the exercise program. A therapist or your doctor can show you proper exercises to do to help keep your joints functioning well. When you can maintain good joint function, you will experience overall wellness and joint fitness.