Physical Therapy for Lyme Disease – Information, Exercises, and More
If you’re recovering from Lyme disease, you know how painful it can be.
Sure, you’ve taken your course of antibiotics and are feeling somewhat better. But you’re still plagued by pain and fatigue.
Is there anything else you can do about it? Yes!
Physical therapy is highly recommended to help Lyme disease patients fully get over the lingering effects of the disease.
Keep reading to learn more about this condition and how physical therapy and Lyme disease go hand-in-hand.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a condition caused most often by the contraction of the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.
It is diagnosed based on:
- Physical appearances such as rashes; and
- Possibility of exposure to infected ticks
Each year, about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease in the United States are reported to the CDC — however, it is estimated that the actual number of people contracting the disease may be closer to 500,000.
Infections most often occur in the:
- Northeast and mid-Atlantic states (from Virginia to Maine)
- North Central states (mostly Wisconsin and Minnesota); and
- West Coast (particularly Northern California)
What Causes Lyme Disease?
Bacteria that cause Lyme disease are transmitted through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks.
Bites from infected ticks have become an increasing public health concern in recent years, especially since there is no vaccine for Lyme disease or other tick-borne illnesses.
Just because you have been bitten by a tick doesn’t necessarily mean you will contract Lyme disease, but there’s always a danger — especially if the bite occurred in one of the geographic regions listed above.
If you see a tick attached to your body, remove it promptly with tweezers and monitor yourself for symptoms, then contact your doctor immediately if any occur within the next few weeks.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
Common symptoms of Lyme disease include:
- Joint and muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Erythema migrans (EM) rash
Symptoms of Untreated Lyme Disease
The above symptoms are those that occur in the early stages of the disease. However, if the condition is left untreated, it can lead to more severe symptoms such as:
- EM rashes spreading to other areas of the body
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Facial palsy
- Intermittent pain in muscles, tendons, bones, and joints
- Heart palpitations/irregular heartbeat
- Dizziness or shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Nerve pain and numbness
- Arthritis with severe swelling and joint pain (especially in the knees and other large joints)
Lyme Disease Treatment
It’s important to catch and treat Lyme disease early so you don’t have to deal with the more serious late-stage symptoms.
Lab tests are used to identify the presence of bacteria that cause the disease. If you have it, your doctor will treat you with a course of oral antibiotics.
If your disease has progressed before being treated and especially if the central nervous system is involved, a doctor may opt to give you 14 to 28 days of intravenous antibiotics instead.
Even after treatment, many patients report persistent:
- Fatigue; or
- Difficulty thinking
This is where Lyme disease and physical therapy come together as PT is used as a tool to treat the lingering symptoms of the condition.
Lyme Disease Physical Therapy – Will PT Help?
Physical therapy is essential to help Lyme disease patients recuperate from their symptoms. Even with antibiotics, they won’t get back to normal without PT, especially exercise. Some physicians even recommend aggressive rehab to help their patients.
There are several modalities of physical therapy that can help with the secondary symptoms of Lyme disease. These include:
- Manual therapy — Massages, stretching, and joint mobilization will improve alignment, range of motion, and mobility and will also alleviate joint pain.
- Mechanical modalities — Electrical stimulation, ultrasound, laser, heat, and ice will decrease pain and inflammation.
- Gait and balance training — These will improve movement and reduce stress on joints.
- Exercise programs — The exercise component of PT will help stretch and strengthen muscles so they can compensate for weakened surrounding joints.
Best Physical Therapy Exercises for Lyme Disease
When you’re just starting out, your physical therapist will probably want to limit your sessions to gentle stretching while your joints continue to heal, then build up from there. Stretches can benefit the many parts of the body affected by Lyme disease.
Here are three effective stretches for Lyme disease patients.
- Bring your left arm across your body and hold it with your right arm.
- Hold for about 30 seconds.
- Switch arms and repeat.
- Lie on your back with the backs of your heels flat on the floor.
- Gently pull one knee up to your chest, feeling a stretch in your lower back.
- Keep the opposite leg relaxed.
- Hold for about 30 seconds.
- Switch legs and repeat.
- Bend your head slightly to the right.
- With your right hand, gently pull your head downward, feeling an easy stretch along the left side of your neck.
- Hold for about 30 seconds.
- Switch sides and repeat.
How In Motion O.C. Can Help With Lyme Disease
In Motion O.C. is a premier physical therapy clinic unlike any other. And because Lyme disease is common in California, we have treated many patients suffering from the lasting effects of this condition.
Don’t just live with the joint and muscle aches caused by Lyme disease — let our expert physical therapists guide you through a custom program to help you feel like your old self again.
Come check us out and see for yourself why we’re the #1 rated clinic in America on Yelp and Google.