man at doctor with lyme disease knee pain

Lyme disease is spread by ticks and can usually be treated with antibiotics if the symptoms are caught early.1,2

However, if Lyme disease is not treated, the bacteria can spread to the joints and cause Lyme disease joint pain.3,4 This is just one of many symptoms of the disease but one that can be particularly painful and debilitating.

Many people wonder if this type of joint pain truly is arthritis or whether it will only last as long as Lyme disease is present in the body.

This article will address the question of whether Lyme disease can cause arthritis and some effective ways to cope with Lyme disease joint pain.

Lyme Disease Joint Pain

The most common symptoms of Lyme disease are fatigue, skin rashes, headaches, sleep problems, neurological problems, and joint pain.1,2,3 Unexplained pain and stiffness in the joints is sometimes one of the earliest signs of Lyme disease and may prompt sufferers to seek medical attention.5 However, other physicians have found that Lyme disease arthritis often occurs several months after the onset of the disease. Severe and permanent joint damage can occur if the condition remains untreated.

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Individuals with Lyme disease may experience joints that are inflamed, swollen, and warm to the touch. The researchers in one scientific study concluded that approximately 60 percent of individuals with untreated Lyme disease had joint and muscle symptoms,6 and another study found that about half of people with Lyme disease felt arthritis symptoms intermittently.2,7

Lyme Disease Knee Pain

The joint pain caused by Lyme disease primarily occurs in the knees and other larger joints. Other commonly affected joints are the hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and ankles. This pain occurs because the bacteria that causes Lyme disease invades the joints and causes the tissues that line them to become inflamed. Many patients with this condition describe their experience as joint pain that moves from one joint to another and pain that comes and goes throughout the day.

Finding Lyme Disease Joint Pain Relief

If Lyme disease is diagnosed and treated right away, it is far less likely that arthritis symptoms will occur.1,7 But unfortunately, it is very easy to misdiagnose Lyme disease arthritis and mistake it for another condition.8 A single course of antibiotics may be sufficient in curing the Lyme disease and alleviating the arthritis symptoms that it causes.9 But if long-term joint damage is sustained by the disease, additional treatment options may need to be pursued. Chronic arthritis may develop after periods of continuous joint inflammation even after the Lyme disease bacteria has been flushed from the body.

For example, it may help to apply an arthritis pain relief cream, such as JointFlex, to the large joints affected by Lyme disease. Anti-inflammatory oral medications may also be recommended to reduce levels of swelling in the joints. If joint pain symptoms persist after two to three months of antibiotics, DMARDs or synovectomy may be recommended as well for some patients. The best way to prevent these symptoms and Lyme disease, in general, is to avoid tall grass and brush habitats that are favored by ticks, use insect repellents while spending time outdoors, and inspect the body for ticks so that they can be promptly removed before spreading disease.

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1. Lyme disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 21, 2018 from
2. Lyme disease. Arthritis Foundation. Retrieved October 21, 2018 from
3. Lyme disease. American College of Rheumatology. Retrieved October 21, 2018 from
4. Arvikar, S. L. & Steere, A. C. (2015 June). Diagnosis and treatment of Lyme arthritis. Infectious Disease Clinics of North America, 29, 269-280. Retrieved October 18, 2018 from National Center of Biotechnology and Information
5. Lyme disease signs and symptoms. Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Retrieved October 21, 2018 from
6. Bratton, R. L., Whiteside, J. W., Hovan, M. J., Engle, R. L., & Edwards, F. D. (2008 May). Diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Retrieved October 21, 2018 from
7. Bush, L. M. & Schmidt, C. E. (2018 May). Lyme disease. The Merck Manual: Consumer Version. Retrieved October 21, 2018 from
8. Lantos, P. M. (2015 June). Chronic Lyme disease. Infectious Disease Clinics of North America, 29, 325-340. Retrieved from National Center for Biotechnology Information
9. Lyme disease: treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved October 21, 2018 from