How does Lyme Disease impact Dry Needling?

I recently got an interesting question from a GEMt course graduate regarding a patient who has Lyme Disease, and whether Dry Needling could be a suitable option for this patient.

Lyme Disease is a well-discussed condition and if you have been practising for long enough odds are you have seen a patient with a confirmed diagnosis, or suspicion.

So what is Lyme Disease and can we needle these patients?

Lyme Disease is an infection caused by a tick that transmits the bacteria in the Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato group. The ticks are found in parts of North America, Asia and Europe. There is no evidence at this stage that ticks in Australia can cause Lyme Disease. However, it has been suggested they can cause other infections with similar symptoms. This has yet to be proven.

In the early stages, there is often a characteristic rash that gives a bullseye appearance which can appear from days 3-32 post tick bite. Symptoms can include fever, headaches, fatigue, joint pains, swollen Lymph Nodes and even Ball’s Palsy.

Complications can include, Meningo-encephalitis, Endocarditis, Myocarditis and Pericarditis.

Diagnosis is partly based on the clinical history, symptoms and presence of the rash in early stages, as well as a travel history to suggest possible exposure to the tick. Lab testing can then be performed to confirm the diagnosis, however false positives and negatives can occur, and it has been suggested that the testing needs to be performed in a lab accredited with NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) as it requires expertise.

The mainstay of treatment in early stages involves antibiotics. In complex cases, there is no high-level evidence to support a particular treatment regime, and there are a lot of unknowns; hence further research is needed.

Getting back to the original question, can you dry needle a patient with Lyme Disease?

Yes, and if you wish to know more specific details, we have written a blog post on our GEMt membership website:

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