Many Lupus Warriors, particularly people with nephritis, struggle with constant aches & lower back pain. A number of tests can help identify the cause.
From constant, dull pains to sharp pangs, back pain is the worst. It can immobilize you and have you stuck on the couch or the floor.
It’s not certain that lower back pain is a direct or indirect cause of lupus. Many Lupus Warriors experience chronic lower back pain that is often associated with fibromyalgia or lupus nephritis.
The Causes of Lower Back Pain for Lupus Warriors
Lupus Nephritis and Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually occurs in people when lupus causes the body’s immune system to attack the kidneys. The medical term for this is lupus nephritis. Lupus nephritis causes inflammation of the small blood vessels that filter wastes in your kidney, which are called glomeruli.
Learn more about lupus nephritis and the kidneys here.
Tests to help determine lupus nephritis
The urine test will detect if there is any protein in the urine. Diseases that affect kidneys many times cause your glomeruli to leak protein into your urine causing it to have a foamy appearance. The term for the condition of having protein in the urine is called proteinuria.
A symptom of lupus nephritis is blood in the urine. Although it’s typically easy to spot blood in the urine, a urine test can detect this as well.
There are several things technicians look for with diagnostic labs involving the blood. The first is cholesterol and protein levels. When they are high, that means the kidneys are not filtering waste the way they should.
Blood tests also check the GFR (glomerular filtration rate), which also shows how well kidneys filter waste.
Finally, blood tests check for antiphospholipid antibodies and anti-nuclear antibodies (ANA), which indicate autoimmune diseases..
A biopsy of the kidney can also detect if a case has evolved into lupus nephritis. Biopsies are invasive procedures where a clinician removes a small slice of a particular organ for analysis under a microscope.
A very common cause of lower back pain for Lupus Warriors is muscle inflammation. Lupus does not only inflame a muscle, it inflames muscle groups. The medical term for this is myositis.
When there is a dull aching constant pain of the muscles, the medical term to use is myalgia. Myalgia is usually considered chronic—unlike inflammation. Chronic pain—especially chronic lower back pain—can interfere with daily life.
How to Treat Lupus Lower Back Pain
If the lower back pain is connected to lupus nephritis, medical treatment is extremely necessary and needs to be immediately addressed. If the lower back pain is associated with muscle inflammation or myalgia, there are certain measures Lupus Warriors can take to ease some of the discomfort.
When it comes to inflammation, take all the necessary steps to reduce stress and prevent flares. It’s also important to maintain the strength of the lower back as well. The lower back can have surprising effects on the gluteal muscles and leg muscles.
It’s important to exercise the lower back muscles in the event a flare leaves the body debilitated for a number of days. Getting back on the feet, walking, bending over, lifting, etc, can all be difficult on the lower back after it has not moved for an extended period of time.
Massaging the lower back might help with myalgia. Working the muscles with the pressure and mild stretching of massages might release some of the tension and alleviate the dull aching pain. After a thorough massage, it’s always important to drink plenty of water to reap the full benefits.
Reflexology, a form of massage, may also provide some benefit.
If the doctor or medical provider gives the okay to exercise, a more intense form of stretching might help myalgia of the lower back. Stretching the hamstrings and gluteus muscles every day will release the lower back muscle group and possibly manage pain throughout the day. Studies have shown stretching has a significant positive impact on myalgia.
A Final Note
Because of the connection to lupus nephritis, it is always a good idea to bring up symptoms you are experiencing with your lupus treatment team. Aches and pains are common with lupus, but they can be key indicators of disease changes.