What is Lupus?
There are many autoimmune diseases, in which the body attacks its own healthy tissues. Lupus is one of them. Chiropractic care may provide some relief. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), is an autoimmune disorder that can affect many parts of the body, including the organs, skin, and joints. It is more common in women, especially those who are aged between 10 and 50, but it can affect anyone. The cause of the disease is still unknown.1 Certain drugs, however, might even become the cause of lupus. When people have a “hypersensitivity reaction” to medications, it might even trigger the body to attack its healthy tissue as well. This lupus is not as severe, though patients still need to seek some form of treatment.2
The most common symptoms of lupus are joint pain, swelling, and arthritis, especially in the wrists, knees, fingers, and hands. Other symptoms of lupus could include hair loss, mouth sores, fatigue and fever, chest pain and malaise, sensitivity to sunlight, and the “butterfly rash over the cheeks and bridge of the nose”. The parts of the body most affected are the skin, lungs, heart, brain, and digestive tract. When a patient seeks the help of a medical professional for any combination of symptoms and “4 out of the 11 typical signs” are present, the doctor will diagnose lupus. Various tests will include listening to the chest, a nervous system exam, kidney biopsy, complete blood panel, urinalysis, and antibody tests, to name a few.3
There is no known cure for lupus. Nonetheless, patients will find themselves with a wide variety of treatment options for symptom relief and reduction. NSAIDs (anti-inflammatory drugs) can help with arthritis and pleurisy, an anti-malaria drug could work with skin issues and arthritis, and steroid creams assist with rashes. These medications carry risks and side effects. Some of which leave the patient in a worse condition compared to their state of health prior to treatment through medication. Steroids can compromise the immune system, for example. A more severe type of medication, cytotoxic, blocks cell growth, and their side effects are serious.
Even with symptom management, immunizations, and screening oneself from the sun, patients with lupus can still have blood clots, anemia, heart problems, pregnancy issues, and stroke.4 There are also “investigational treatments” for lupus, including the following: “Biologics, Hormones, Immunosuppressives (Immune Modulators), Monoclonal Antibodies, Organ Transplant Anti-Rejection Drugs, Stem Cell Transplantation and Topical Immunomodulators (TIMs) therapies”.5
Many complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) can be used to help people with lupus. Some options are biofeedback, yoga, meditation, massage, and dietary changes. Other patients may choose to seek acupuncture, massage, supplements/herbs, and other alternative options for treatment of lupus.6
Chiropractic might also be beneficial. With chiropractic, patients can receive spinal manipulation, muscle relaxation, and vitamin therapy to reduce their symptoms. Flare-ups need to be prevented, which is something that chiropractic care is able to do. Chiropractors might also suggest exercise and dietary changes. A large part of complementary and alternative medicine is the patient’s compliance and that they take a large role in their own treatment. Patients will see improvement in their condition with both the help of a chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist and their own commitment to wellness.
For those whose nervous system is greatly affected, spinal manipulations can reduce stress and “balance the nerves in the body”. The treatment of other, curable conditions that the patient has will reduce unnecessary stressors on the body.7 There have been case studies demonstrating chiropractic benefits for lupus patients.8 Chiropractors can provide relief from the joint pain and subluxations associated with lupus.9
Massage as a Treatment Option
As mentioned previously, chiropractic care is not the only CAM treatment option for patients with lupus. Massage, which is very commonly used as a complementary treatment to chiropractic care, is one such CAM treatment option. Massage therapists very often work with chiropractors, both by working in the same office or through patient referral, a process which goes both ways.
The massage therapist should know that patients with lupus might experience difficulty with flexibility. This means that they might have to provide the massage therapy to a patient who is sitting in a chair, if the patient finds it more comfortable. The massage therapist might work on soothing connective tissue using light fascial techniques and compression. The friction to the joints and ligaments will strengthen and promote healing in those areas. The patient should not receive massage therapy during an acute flare-up. The therapist should also not use heat treatments or range-of-motion work on areas with inflammation. Vigorous and deep tissue massage should also be avoided.
Every patient is different, and the massage therapist should be attentive to the patient’s needs and what they feel.10 A successful massage therapy session should end with the patient experiencing some level of pain relief, reduced physical tension, improved circulation, and stress reduction. Some of these results might slowly build up over the course of a few sessions, but the patient should at least feel some results at the end of every massage.11
1, 3, 4 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
5, 6 wwwlupus.org