The Role of Physical Therapy for Lyme Disease

Physical Therapy for Lyme Disease

At Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, we have placed a growing focus on treatment for those who struggle with Lyme disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2011, 96% of Lyme disease cases were reported from 13 states: one of them is New Jersey.

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

People are most likely to be infected with Lyme disease in the summer months. The disease is fairly easy to cure with a course of antibiotics in the early stages, but if left undetected or untreated, can cause problems in the later stages, when the heart and nervous system are affected. Finally, late or chronic Lyme disease also causes arthritis. (According to the CDC, although often called “chronic Lyme disease,” this condition is properly known as “Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome” (PTLDS).

PTLDS, or late stage Lyme disease, results in musculoskeletal impairments, which is a primary area of treatment in physical therapy. At Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, we offer individualized treatment designed for patients to cope with and lessen the symptoms of Lyme disease.

Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation assists in promoting exercise for Lyme patients. There are several theories as to why exercise may help Lyme sufferers. One is the increase in oxygen levels in cells and tissues, as the Lyme-specific bacteria is known to die when exposed to even relatively minor oxygen concentrations. The bacteria are also sensitive to heat. With aggressive exercise, the core body temperature rises, potentially destroying bacteria as well. Finally, exercise traditionally benefits the immune system, which is weakened by Lyme disease.

At Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, in addition to a prescription for an exercise program, treatments for Lyme disease may include:

  • Manual Therapy, including massage, stretching and joint mobilization to improve alignment, mobility and range of motion, and to alleviate the pain of affected joints.
  • Mechanical modalities, including ultrasound, electrical stimulation, laser, ice and heat to decrease pain and inflammation.
  • Stretching and strengthening exercise program to help improve range of motion as well as strengthen the muscles that assist in supporting weakened surrounding joints.
  • Gait and balance, and other mechanics training, relevant to some Lyme disease patients to improve movement techniques and reduce the stress on joints caused by daily activities.

In addition to the above therapies, patient education programs are perhaps the most empowering aspect of our care. If you, a friend or family member suffer from Lyme disease, please contact us at Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation.

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