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Lupus Muscle Pain

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2020

The same inflammation that causes joint pain in people with lupus can also cause pain and weakness (atrophy) in the muscles and pain in the tendons (the tissue that connects muscles to the bones). In fact, muscle pain is one of the more common symptoms that people with lupus experience, with 50 percent reporting muscle pain and tenderness during disease flares.1

What causes muscle and tendon pain in people with lupus?

Inflammation is the most common reason for muscle aches and pains in people with lupus.

Sometimes the drugs used to treat lupus create the side effect of muscle weakness. Medicines that may cause this symptom to include steroids, statins, and the antimalarial hydroxychloroquine. You may need to stop or adjust the amount you take if your muscle weakness is drug-induced.

Tendonitis and bursitis may also occur in people with lupus. Tendonitis is an irritation of the fibers that attach muscles to bone. Bursitis is irritation of the bursa, the sac that holds fluid near the joint so that muscles, bones, and tendons move smoothly. People with lupus arthritis may experience both tendonitis and bursitis.

What is lupus myositis?

Sometimes people with lupus develop pain and weakness in the skeletal muscles of the neck, pelvis, thighs, shoulders, and upper arms. This can make it hard to climb stairs, get up from a chair, getting out of a bath, or doing anything that requires lifting your arm over your head, such as placing objects on a shelf or brushing your hair. Physical therapy may be needed to help you regain muscle strength and function.1

How are muscle pain, tendon pain, and muscle weakness treated?

The treatments for muscle pain and weakness may vary depending on how what is causing your pain and how severe it is. Some of the first options your doctor may suggest for muscle weakness are:

  • Physical therapy to regain muscle strength and function.
  • Exercise to maintain muscle strength.
  • Stopping or adjusting drugs that cause muscle pain or weakness.

Over-the-counter pain medicines such as NSAIDs (ibuprofen and naproxen) are often used to relieve pain and inflammation but may have side effects, especially if taken in large doses. That is why it is a good idea to find other methods to control your pain. A variety of non-drug treatments may help relieve pain, including:2

  • Moist heat for sore joints, such as a hot tub, sauna, moist heated towel, or a hot shower.
  • Resting the muscle or tendon if the pain is caused by overuse.
  • Meditation, self-hypnosis, low-impact yoga, or Tai Chi can help direct your attention away from the pain.
  • Acupuncture or acupressure.

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