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Posted September 27, 2021 by Aisha Rahman, MD
Chronic, severe pain from autoimmune diseases can have a detrimental impact on your health, work and relationships. When you’re suffering from chronic pain day in and day out, it’s only natural that you become less active, antisocial, moody and find it difficult to sleep.
Not to mention, the stress, anxiety and even depression that comes from dealing with pain can make it even worse.
Autoimmune diseases are a chronic condition in which your immune system mistakenly attacks and kills the body’s cells. There are more than 80 known types, but some of the most common autoimmune diseases include:
While the body’s organs and tissues affected depend on the type of autoimmune disease you have, they all seem to share one common symptom: inflammation, redness and pain. These symptoms are a direct result of the immune system “fighting” certain parts of the body.
There is no cure for autoimmune diseases, but there are medications, therapies and proven lifestyle changes that can help you better manage your condition and relieve the pain they cause. The primary goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation, pain and other debilitating symptoms, while restricting the progression of the disease, if possible.
Summa Health discusses 4 common treatments for autoimmune diseases so you can improve your ability to function and live a better life.1. Over-the-counter therapies
OTC medicines, such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen and Napoxen, are likely the first line of treatment your doctor will recommend. They can help relieve mild symptoms, such as reducing pain, inflammation, stiffness and fever.
The right OTC therapy will depend on your autoimmune disease. Be sure to talk to your doctor first, however, because long-term use can cause serious side effects, such as kidney damage and stomach ulcers.2. Prescription drugs
If OTC therapies aren’t working or if you’re experiencing severe pain, the next step is likely prescription medicine. Prescription drugs can be used to relieve symptoms, as well as prevent the underlying autoimmune disease from getting worse.
You may also be given medicines to replace vital substances your body needs to function, such as insulin injections or thyroid hormone replacements.
Since there is a wide range of autoimmune diseases, your doctor will prescribe drugs based on your condition and specific symptoms. They may include:
Just beware these prescription medicines can come with more side effects than OTC drugs, such as making you more susceptible to infection.3. Lifestyle changes
Lifestyle changes can go a long way in reducing your symptoms. Your doctor will likely recommend the following as important components in helping you feel better.
4. Alternative therapies
Your doctor may recommend alternative therapies that have been shown to help those with autoimmune diseases get symptom relief and improve their quality of life.
Physical therapy focuses on learning specific exercises designed to reduce symptoms. It can be beneficial in helping you build muscle mass to relieve joint pain and weakness. It can also help numbness in your limbs, coordination problems and joint stiffness.
Occupational therapy focuses on making daily tasks easier, so you can live a more independent, active life. An occupational therapist can teach you different methods to reduce pain and symptoms when bathing, getting dressed or driving, for instance. They can also prescribe medical devices that can make it easier to accomplish daily tasks.
Other alternative therapies that might help give you symptom relief include biofeedback, hypnosis, acupuncture and chiropractic.
Finding the right treatment for your autoimmune disease can take time. You may have to try several options before finding the right one or a combination to best manage your condition. Try to remain positive during the process because once you do find the right treatment, it can make all the difference in keeping you active and healthy.
The Summa Health Pain Management team provides comprehensive pain management services using the latest innovations in traditional and non-traditional pain treatment. Our pain-management specialists use a team-based approach to work closely with you to identify the cause of your pain and then develop an individualized treatment plan. The goal is to manage your pain, and to keep you active and healthy. Call 330.865.5333 to schedule an evaluation with our Pain Management team.