Lyme Disease: Learning to Manage Suffering
The CDC defines Lyme Disease as “A systemic, tick-borne disease with protean manifestations, including dermatologic, rheumatologic, neurologic, and cardiac abnormalities.” Lyme disease is one of the most widely known “invisible illnesses”, partially due to awareness campaigns that educate the public on ways of preventing and appropriately responding to tick bites. However, despite these efforts an estimated 300,000 people a year are affected by Lyme disease in the US.
If you live in the Northeast U.S. (as well as Wisconsin), prevention and early detection are key to reducing your chance of contracting Lyme disease. Within this location, deer ticks are most prevalent in the same areas you would expect to find deer. They can be found in the woods, grassy clearings, as well as waiting for a passing host on fallen logs and in piles of leaves. When a deer, rodent, or unsuspecting hiker makes their way past a tick, it will grasp or leap onto the host and begin to feed.
Even if a tick manages to grasp onto a pant leg or shirt, there are several ways to keep this pesky bug from feeding:
- Clothing: Protective clothing including pants, long-sleeved shirt, a hat, and ankle high boots. Tuck in your shirt and pant legs into your boots. Consider wearing light colored clothing making ticks easier to spot.
- Sprays: Permethrin sprayed on clothing will kill ticks on contact. Insect repellent containing DEET is one of the most effective ways of keeping ticks off you and your clothing.
- Inspection: Just because you’re home doesn’t mean you are out of the woods! After a day in the outdoors, remove any clothing that brushed up against plants or natural debris. Place these items in a plastic bag or throw them right in the wash. Next, hop in the shower and thoroughly scrub and inspect your body.
Early Detection, Signs and Symptoms
Unlike a bee sting, tick bites rarely hurt and often go unnoticed. If you do find a tick attached to your skin during an inspection, there are a few precautionary measures you can take to help decrease your risk of contracting Lyme disease. If the tick is discovered and removed within 24 hours, it is highly unlikely that the tick transmitted enough harmful bacteria to leave you infected. Typically, the tick must be attached for 36-48 hours for the Borrelia bacteria (responsible for Lyme disease) to spread.
Remove the attached tick with a pair of tweezers, gripping as closely to the skin as possible. Pull the tick straight out and avoid crushing the body, keeping the tick intact. There are both blood and tick tests that can be administered, however there is limited benefits in the results. Doctors have to see how symptoms progress before making a final diagnosis, but they will provide a dose of doxycycline to reduce your risk of contracting the disease.
In 70%-80% of Lyme disease cases, those infected will develop a distinctive “bull’s eye” rash within 3-32 days. Others may develop a nondistinctive rash or nothing at all. Those infected may also experience flu-like symptoms, muscle soreness, headache, and fever.
If you begin to experience any of the above symptoms (with or without the rash), consult with a doctor as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment is the best way to reduce the severity of an infection.
Learning to Live With Lyme Disease
Many people do not develop immediate symptoms which gives the Borrelia bacteria time to spread throughout the body. If Lyme disease goes untreated for several months, those infected may develop serious chronic symptoms that affect many areas of the body, including:
Individuals may experience progressive symptoms such as bouts of joint swelling followed by chronic arthritis. Other disabling symptoms include severe headaches, shooting pain, inflammation, partial facial paralysis, and tingling in the arms and legs. These symptoms will vary in severity as they are often reflective of how long an individual went undiagnosed.
Pain management with Lyme disease is similar to other autoimmune disorders and are typically a multimodal approach. Doctors will start with over the counter NSAIDS and topical pain relievers, and will encourage the patient to make lifestyle changes like dieting and exercise. When the suffering becomes unmanageable, opioids and muscle relaxers are frequently prescribed and work well for many. For others, these medications work great at first, but lose their analgesic effects over time and/or the medications become problematic, leading to higher sensitivity to pain, constipation, and dependence.
At A Healing Place – The Estates, our mission is to help you find sustainable, pain management approaches that works best for your specific needs. Many Patients are interested in exploring non-opioid pain management, but have relied exclusively on opioids to manage pain for so long that implementing a non-opioid pain management regimen seems daunting and impossible. Fear not.
Our proprietary Addiction Free Pain Management® PLUS System is a cognitive behavioral approach that will empower you to shift from suffering with your pain to thriving despite it. We educate our patients about the body-mind connection and how our subconscious can increase our perception of pain which causes suffering. We also have over 25 holistic and non-pharmacological evidence-based pain management tools that can be used to address biological, psychological, social and spiritual suffering.
There is no one size fits all approach to chronic pain management. Together, we can find solutions that best meet your individual needs. Click here to read more about treatment options available at A Healing Place – The Estates.
Living with any chronic illness can take an emotional and psychological tole on an individual. However, depending on the severity of an individual’s Lyme disease, a patient may develop what is known as Lyme encephalopathy. Symptoms of Lyme encephalopathy include cognitive difficulties, sleep deprivation or insomnia, changes in personality, and a general sense of feeling unwell. Generalized anxiety and panic attacks are also frequently reported in cases of Lyme disease.
Lyme brings with it a very specific set of mental health challenges, but these are not uncommon across other chronic pain conditions. It is for this reason that learning how to manage psychological suffering is a major component of the work done at A Healing Place – The Estates. Many of the psychological and emotional responses we experience are subconscious by nature, and by learning to restructure our thought patterns allows us to better control and regulate our emotions. We help our patients discover that they too have to power to manage their anxiety, depression, perception of pain, physiological responses to pain, and restlessness with evidence-based, multidiciplinary modalities. Some of which include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Equine Therapy
- Meditation and guided meditation
Being diagnosed with a chronic condition changes our lives in ways we could never have imagined. Your resiliency is tested daily, and each day brings with it a new set of hurdles to overcome. As pain becomes more debilitating, many struggle to maintain the balance between work or school, family, social, and recreational activities. As patients learn to live with their chronic illness, they are forced to slow their pace of life. The concept of activity pacing helps those living with chronic pain accomplish tasks that need to be completed while getting adequate rest. However, many find that this limits their social interaction resulting in feelings of isolation.
We have also seen how a chronic condition diagnosis can put extreme tension on a family. Those within our family often serve as your initial support system, and are energized to help meet your ever need. However, over time family members become burnt out, communication starts to break down, and everybody suffers.
Part of the healing process at A Healing Place – The Estates is working with the family. When a loved one enters our primary residential program, clinicians help family members learn and grow as well. They receive psycho education that parallels what their loved one is learning in treatment. Near the end of six weeks in our program, we invite family members to attend a two and a half day intensive workshop that delves into generational patterns, and begins to reestablish healthy communication skills. We also explore and discuss the importance of ensuring social and recreational needs are being met – both for the patient and the family.
Many patients coming to our program feel as if they have lost a piece of themselves to their chronic illness. They also feel as though they have lost their purpose, sense of direction, and feel as if their higher power has abandoned them. One of our treatment goals is to help patients connect with their higher power. Some do this through an identified religion and strengthen a bond that has diminished over time. Others who do not identify with religions will explore spiritual dimensions through nature, energy, and human contentedness. Par of our mission is to help you find a sense of hope and inspiration no matter where you are on your spiritual journey. We do this through:
- Spiritual Direction with Shannon Savage-Howie, Spiritual Director
- The Four Agreements
- Mindfulness and meditation
Stop Suffering, Get Help Today
Stop suffering with the help of our triple diagnosis treatment program. We can help you find sustainable solutions for chronic pain, while addressing the psychological conditions and addictive behaviors that often complicate treatment.
Our team of professionals will work with you to develop a personalized treatment plan that is reflective of your unique needs and goals. Stop surviving and start thriving. Call today, or send us an email to get the process started. 844-388-4100