Massage Therapy: A Useful Treatment for Lupus Pain


You’ve probably heard of massage therapy as an alternative or complementary treatment for pain and arthritis, but you may not know that it can also be helpful in managing symptoms of lupus.

Because this autoimmune disease causes the immune system to attack healthy tissue, it causes inflammation throughout the body, including painful joint inflammation, headaches and more.

In fact, massage therapy has been shown to be effective at reducing pain from several common symptoms of lupus, as well as improving quality of life overall. Read below to know how it is beneficial for patients with lupus and who needs to avoid it and when.

man rubs sore knee. Cry because of pain

Manages Anxiety and Depression

One common symptom that people with lupus deal with is depression and anxiety. It’s important to have a healthy mind and body, but it can be hard to do when one or the other feels so out of control.

Massage therapy works on both aspects. When someone has a massage, they get the constant touch which helps to relieve the depressive symptoms like irritability, anxiety, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and more.

Reduce Frequent Headaches

Migraines and other headaches are a common symptom of lupus. Studies have shown that massage therapy is an effective treatment for migraine headaches. The gentle pressure from the therapist’s hands stimulates the release of endorphins in your body, which can help relax tense muscles in your neck, shoulders and back.

Reduces Inflammation

A lupus flare-up is often accompanied by an increase in inflammation, which can result in pain and stiffness. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce inflammation through the release of serotonin, which in turn diminishes pain signals that are sent to the brain.


When To Avoid Massage Therapy in Lupus

While massage can be an enjoyable, relaxing way to relieve this kind of pain, it’s not necessarily the best choice in every situation. Here is when you should avoid getting a massage if you have lupus.

During a flare– This is because during a flare your muscles are tight and the massage may cause more inflammation. Plus, if you already have problems with circulation, then the massage may make it worse by increasing blood flow to an area where blood flow is already restricted.

When you have open skin lesions– When you have open skin lesions, your body’s immune system may react to the massage therapist’s touch and cause more inflammation that can worsen the condition. It’s best to avoid massages when you have an open wound or skin rash, which could lead to an infection.

Within two days of infusion therapy– One of the most important times is within two days after infusion therapy. Your body’s ability to heal is affected by the medications delivered by infusion. Thus, after considering infusion therapy while receiving infusion therapy, be sure to speak with your doctor first.

Massage to be Avoided with Lupus

As per the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), lupus patients should avoid massage techniques that increase inflammation. Among these are Deep Tissue Massage and other “hot” therapies such as Hot Stone Massage.

What to Look for in Your Massage Therapist  for Lupus?

 If your primary care provider has cleared you to receive massages, but you don’t know how to find a therapist or what questions to ask, here are a few factors to consider before scheduling your first massage:

  • Therapist should be licensed
  • Should have experience and history of working with autoimmune diseases
  • Able to tell you the side effects from a massage on lupus patients
  • Find one you’re comfortable with
  • Other diseases that the therapist treat
  • Charges of the therapist

Massage therapy is definitely a useful treatment for lupus pain but make sure to ask your doctor, indicate the therapist if you experience pain, and be relaxed during the massage.


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