Massage Therapy Case Study – Lyme Disease

tick_biteJoan spotted me in the grocery store a couple of years after I’d last seen her. “I almost died,” she said to me, “before the doctors found out it was Lyme Disease.”

I’d worked with Joan almost monthly for two years. At first it was fairly standard maintenance: sore muscles after house renovations, tight lumbar spine from lax abdominals and an overworked iliopsoas, tight neck from life stress. She had a history of colitis, and the soreness and pain from her tissues always seemed a little out of proportion to the problem, but sometimes people are sensitive that way.

After the first year things got unusual. Joan started complaining of reduced benefit from her sessions. She was experiencing ‘blank moments’ in her attention, a revival of her bowel problems, and an unexplained catch in her throat. Her skin showed the texture and pallor of long-term stress. Her morale was going downhill. Neither the doctor, the chiropractor, or I had any answers for her. When I retired from active practice Joan was one of the last patients I saw, and her condition was worsening.

None of us ever thought of Lyme Disease. It exists in our area, but isn’t too common. Lyme disease can present months or years after a tick bite delivers it, showing up as diffuse muscle aches, low grade joint inflammation, and unexplained neurological problems that can span the range from numb spots to malfunctioning organs. The long incubation time and wide variation in symptoms, along with uncertain lab tests, can make Lyme Disease a difficult one to catch.

Joan got worse. The catch in her throat developed into bouts of sudden, catastrophic swelling that would reduce her breathing to the point of cyanosis and then be gone. She had an attack in the doctor’s presence, and they chased the condition down until someone finally mentioned Lyme Disease. Then Joan remembered a tick bite, many years before, that came with a red-ring rash for a few days. That bull’s eye rash is the first sign of a Lyme infection.

She’s getting better. Long-term antibiotics will help root out the infection, and she still gets massage and chiropractic treatment to help with the symptoms. Lyme Disease is a frustrating condition to diagnose and not all that common, but good to keep in mind. Massage therapy is an excellent adjunct treatment once the infection itself is under control.

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Published in: on August 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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