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Living With Lupus

Warm Milk Really Works continued...

Balch agrees, but cautions lupus patients against doing too much exercise, noting that some people plunge ahead, determined to do as much as the guy next to them at the gym -- and give up due to exhaustion. "I have my patients shoot for walking 15 to 30 minutes, three times a week, at a pace of one to two miles per hour, or doing water aerobics for the same time. I think those are the two best exercises for people with lupus."

Other techniques for blocking pain and improving mobility, say Balch and Phillips, include biofeedback, hypnosis, imagery, meditation, tai chi, and yoga. "Do what works for you, with the least side effects," says Balch. That may mean trying out a few options: Don't give up just because the tai chi that worked for your friend did nothing for you.

Managing the Mental Factor

But all of these strategies can only go so far, Phillips cautions. "Any symptoms that you can't eradicate through various methods must be dealt with by learning to cope with things you cannot change," he says. "This can be even more critical, because one of the most frustrating things about living with lupus is having restrictions imposed on you by the disease that you can't change."

First, he suggests, identify the negative thoughts. What's bothering you when you think about what you can't do? If, for example, you're having trouble moving around and are walking more slowly than you used to, maybe you're thinking, "I'm miserable because I can't walk faster. First, you need to acknowledge your unhappiness about that restriction, and then ask, 'Are there people who have a similar physical restriction but handle it better?'" says Phillips.

"The answer is always yes. And you can do that too. Your emotional state and the way you feel about yourself don't have to be tied to physical problems. You can acknowledge them, but then think, 'How do I feel good about myself despite this?' The more people learn this strategy, the better they can learn to feel even if nothing changes as far as the disease," he says.

Reviewer: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Reviewed for medical accuracy by physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Harvard Medical School. BIDMC does not endorse any products or services advertised on this Web site.


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