Lyme Disease Treatment and Pain Management

Eighty to 90% of patients with early stage Lyme disease will be successfully treated with a course of antibiotics.

Antibiotics are the treatment for early stages of Lyme disease. In most cases, a person given appropriate antibiotics early in the course of the disease will recover quickly and completely after taking antibiotics for two to four weeks. Antibiotics commonly used include doxycycline, amoxicillin or cefuroxime.

If you experience joint stiffness, your doctor may recommend taking ibuprofen or another pain medicine.

In about 10% to 20% of cases, patients—especially those diagnosed later—may continue to have symptoms for more than six months after appropriate antibiotic treatment. This is called Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS). Continuing symptoms may include fatigue, pain or muscle and joint aches.

Treatment options for Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome can include acupuncture, ultrasound, or treatments involving radio waves, infrared light or lasers. All of these treatments may help muscles, tendons, and joints stay flexible and mobile. 

Range of motion and stretching exercises help keep joints mobile and prevent muscle constriction. Water therapy is very comforting. Corticosteroid injections or topical applications (such as a cream or gel) may be essential for treatment, especially if joint swelling is present and patients have limited mobility.

While the exact cause of this syndrome is not known, some doctors think it results from lingering damage to tissues and the immune system that occurred during active infection. PTLDS appears to be similar to other infections that produce an autoimmune condition after the active infection has resolved. Included here are Campylobacter jejuni (polyneuropathy, Guillain-Barre Syndrome), chlamydia (reactive arthritis, Reiter’s Syndrome), Streptococcus (glomerulonephritis), and Epstein-Barr virus (infectious mononucleosis).

From a pain perspective, these post-infectious syndromes may produce severe pain in joints, nerves, and muscles that require separate treatment. See you physician for more on treatment options for chronic pain conditions.

Updated on: 05/06/15
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