Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus) is a chronic, autoimmune inflammatory disease that can affect almost any organ system in the body. It most often develops in women during their childbearing years. Currently, there is no cure for lupus, but treatment can reduce symptoms. These frequently occur in a cycle of flare-ups and remissions. Because sunlight can cause symptoms to flare, limiting sun exposure by wearing sunscreen or exercising indoors is essential. Lupus symptoms of joint pain, joint stiffness and fatigue often cause people to reduce their daily activities or stop exercising altogether, which can make symptoms worse.
A supervised exercise program of gentle flexibility, strength and endurance training benefits many people with lupus, especially when combined with heat modalities. Appropriate exercises can
- improve range of motion and reduce joint stiffness
- strengthen tendons, ligaments and muscles to stabilize joints
- help maintain strong bones and avoid the osteoporosis often caused by drugs commonly prescribed to treat inflammation caused by lupus
- improve or maintain cardiac health because heart disease is the leading cause of death in people with lupus
- reduce the tendency to gain weight because extra pounds put more stress on inflamed joints
- improve sleep patterns, mood and general outlook on life by releasing endorphins and decreasing stress
Because lupus must be approached on an individual basis and exercising with lupus is not without risk, we can design a program of exercises appropriate to your level of fitness and pain after consulting with your physician. When symptoms flare, we can help you engage in the correct amount of exercise and suggest alternatives to endurance and strengthening exercises that can aggravate swollen joints. The good news is that, despite the many ups and downs of lupus, early intervention can keep it at bay and make the condition more manageable.