Nearly 90 percent of people with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) experience joint pain, joint stiffness and muscle pain; skin rashes affect up to 75 percent. Try these tips to cope with these common lupus symptoms.


Joint pain and stiffness are among the earliest lupus symptoms, and can target any joint in the body, but usually the hands, wrist and feet at the onset of disease. Swelling may or may not coincide with the pain or stiffness.

How to Treat Joint Pain and Stiffness in Lupus

  • Over-the-counter and prescription medications can effectively relieve these lupus symptoms. They include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin); corticosteroids in pill, cream, or shot form; and antimalarial drugs such as hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil®).

  • Home remedies for joint pain and stiffness include taking a warm shower or bath, or applying a heating pad or ice pack. (Apply ice if your joint is inflamed.) Rest can also relieve these two common lupus symptoms. Avoid putting weight on the affected joint, or performing any activity that stresses it, and support it with a pillow or cushion.

  • Physical therapy to relieve joint pain and stiffness can be effective. A physical therapist can perform passive range of motion exercises and show you how to do them at home.

  • Exercise, including yoga and tai chi, also relieves these common lupus symptoms. Wait until inflammation subsides and then do at least 30 minutes a day of low-impact or moderate-intensity exercises.

  • Supplements. Natural supplements containing omega 3 essential fatty acids may help relieve joint pain and stiffness. Also, vitamin D deficiency may worsen pain, so try taking a daily vitamin D supplement.


These lupus symptoms affect about two-thirds of people with lupus, according to the SLE Lupus Foundation. Also called myalgia, muscle pain in lupus usually occurs between the elbow and neck, or the knee and hip. It can also affect the ligaments and tendons. In some cases muscles may become inflamed and weakened, a condition referred to as myositis.

How to Treat Muscle Pain in Lupus

  • Home relief for this common lupus symptom is similar to joint pain relief - apply heat or ice, a warm bath or shower, or rest. Also, try to get more sleep.

  • Massages and stretches help soothe sore muscles. They also relieve stress and induce relaxation, which has a positive impact on pain.

  • Medications such as NSAIDs can help. A corticosteroid such as cortisone or prednisone may be prescribed for myositis.


Skin or photosensitive rashes are very common lupus symptoms. The Lupus Foundation of America indicates that photosensitivity may be due to an autoimmune reaction triggered by the sun that leads to inflammation of skin cells. Furthermore, sun exposure may cause other symptoms such as nausea, headaches, weakness, or joint and muscle pain.

How to Treat Sun or Light Sensitivity in Lupus

  • Avoid the sun and reduce the amount of time you spend in fluorescent or halogen light, advises the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Apply a generous amount of sunscreen (even on cloudy days) that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, and that has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied after two hours of sun exposure, and immediately after an outdoor activity such as swimming, or one that's causing you to perspire a lot.

  • Wear sun protective clothing (long sleeves, long pants and a hat) when you're outdoors. Some sun protective clothing bear the label UPF, which stands for "ultraviolet protection factor" and ranges between 15 and 50. If you're using just regular clothing from your wardrobe, choose darker colors for better sun protection.

  • Ask if a medication will increase photosensitivity when your doctor prescribes it. Phototoxic drugs include some antibiotics, antihistamines, malaria drugs, and diuretics; pain relievers such as Aleve® and Naproxen®; and the acne drug Accutane®.

Lupus symptoms tend to flare under certain circumstances--when you're overworked or stressed, sun exposure, infection, injury, or stopping your medications. Try to avoid these situations as much as possible to reduce flares.