What's My Alternative: Lupus

By Vanessa Selene Williams

For years, Jesse Loren, a 45-year-old high school teacher who lives near Davis, California, battled severe allergies, kidney problems, and unexplained fatigue. In 2004, she was diagnosed with pityriasis, a skin condition characterized by a pink, scaly rash. It wasn’t until December 2007, when she was suffering from intense joint pain and the same rash that wouldn’t go away, that she was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease. While the exact cause of lupus is unknown, researchers believe that both genetic and environmental factors, such as antibiotics, extreme stress, and hormones, could play a role.

The Conventional RX: Corticosteroids and anti-malarial drugs, which control joint pain and reduce inflammation. But Loren says these drugs came with extreme side effects for her, including mood swings, depression, facial swelling, and weight gain.

The Alternative RX: Massage. While Loren still sees her medical doctor regularly and takes a corticosteroid to control her joint pain, twice-monthly massages have helped increase the range of motion in her joints and decrease pain. “Regular massage increases circulation,” says Margaret G. Green, CMT, a massage therapist in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. The increased circulation “removes toxins by improving the blood and lymph flow—and this helps control the inflammation associated with lupus.” Massage also helps the body release feel-good endorphins, natural neurotransmitters that interfere with the signals between nerve cells and reduce pain.

The Outcome: Loren is now tapering off of her medication regimen. “Regular massages have lessened my symptoms and also helped me feel more energized,” says Loren. “Even better, I feel more hopeful.”