Lyme Disease: How to avoid it and how we can help treat it

Last year, my family and I moved to a beautiful patch of woods in Lititz, PA.  It is very scenic and my twin daughters love playing in nature.  However, there is an unseen danger lurking out there that we all need to be aware of…ticks!  Unfortunately, a few months ago, we did find a tick embedded in the back of my daughter’s neck. After hearing so many stories of people getting bit and not knowing what to do or what resources to use, it inspired me to dig deeper into what is out there as far as resources to help individuals with Lyme Disease. You may be surprised to learn that physical therapy can be a source of reprieve to many who are living with Lyme’s Disease.

First, let’s identify it: Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. As many of you know, it is transmitted by a bite from a blacklegged, infected deer tick.

What to look for: If you think you may have come in contact with a tick, it is important to look for a few signs of a bite. The most common symptoms include: a red circle around the area in which you were bitten, fatigue, headaches, fever, red rash. If not caught and treated early, symptoms can then progress to joint pain, affect the nervous system, and your potentially your heart.

Prevention: Prevention is the best form of defense. Here are a few tips:

  1. Wear long pants and long sleeves when working outside, especially if you live in the woods or if you know it is an area in which ticks like to hide (tall grasses).
  2. Tuck your pant legs into your socks. This sounds weird and it may not be a fashion statement, but the less skin exposure, the better.
  3. Some bug repellents contain chemicals that repel ticks and can be an added measure for prevention.
  4. Always, always search your body and head for those creepy crawlers afterwards.

These are just a few simple ways to decrease your chances of getting a tick. This website has some other great measures that can be taken around your home to help decrease the chances of ticks being attracted to your backyard.

If you find a tick: Try your best to remove the entire tick. Take tweezers and grab as much of the tick as you can, pull with constant pressure. Do not twist or yank as this can cause the head of the tick to break off and become stuck within your skin.

In my daughter’s case, we were not able to remove the entire tick. Don’t panic. If you cannot get all of it, just leave what is left under the skin. The body will do the work for you. Eventually the skin will shed the rest of the tick and it will heal. This is exactly what happened with my daughter.

Make sure to save the tick in an airtight container, so that you can take it somewhere to be tested for different things like Lyme. I used Tickcheck.com which sent me a label to put on the envelope.  In PA, it will be sent to the Wildlife Genetics Institute. If positive for Lyme Disease, it may come back saying positive for Borrelia burgdorferi.

Treatment: In the early stages of Lyme disease, oral antibiotics are frequently used as a treatment. However, if not caught early, treatment can vary based on symptoms, age, and medical history. Here is a good site for additional information and research about Lyme’s Disease. It is also important to see a Lyme-Literate doctor who can perform very specific testing to confirm that you have Lyme.

Here is a list of a few Lyme literate doctors in Pennsylvania (this list is not all-inclusive):
Smith, Regina DO, Internal Medicine           (717) 795-4862       Mechanicsburg, PA
Rhoads, Rita, CNM, NP, Obstetrics               (717) 468-7491      Bart, PA
Makous, Marina, MD  Chronic Disease         (484) 876-1362      Exton, PA
Noonan, Frank C., DO, Integrative Medicine (717) 866-0055     Myerstown, PA

How could physical therapy help those with Lyme’s Disease? Symptoms of Lyme may include joint pain, muscle tightness/ soreness, and fatigue. All of these symptoms can be evaluated and treated in physical therapy:

  1. Muscle soreness: for muscle soreness we often utilize techniques such as stretching, soft tissue massage (STM) and instrument-assisted soft tissue massage (IASTM) to help decrease the tone and to lengthen the muscles. At Hartz Physical Therapy we have several providers that are IASTM trained.
  2. Fatigue: When addressing fatigue, a physical therapist will assess you during the initial evaluation to check your baseline with various activities. Your therapist be able to customize a home exercise program (HEP) that is specific to your needs. At the following visit, the HEP will be reviewed and the exercise regime may be tweaked to progress, if necessary.
  3. Joint pain: For joint pain, the use of aquatic therapy to help unload joints will allow freedom of movement and therefore strengthening of surrounding muscles. It is important to build the muscles that help support your joints so there is less pain. We can also use one of our many available modalities as an adjunct to pain control, if deemed appropriate upon your initial evaluation.  Modalities include moist heat, ice, game ready, electrical stimulation and ultrasound.

The therapists at Hartz Physical Therapy strive to help you achieve your best outcome, no matter the diagnosis. We listen to what our patients have to say and collaborate with them to  create goals that are challenging but achievable.

Additional Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/

www.ilads.org

www.tickcheck.com

Wildlife Genetics Institute
562 Independence Rd, Suite 114
East Stroudsburg, PA 18301

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