Do you think you're suffering from the signs of chronic Lyme Disease? Quacks — many of them "true believers" — are successfully promoting scores of science-less and dangerous alternative therapies for chronic Lyme Disease, ranging from Bismuth to bee venom and Naltrexone .
Electromagnetic Frequency Treatments: Not All Unscientific!
From the defibrillator used to kickstart people's hearts to the TENS machine popular for the relief of labor pains during childbirth in some countries and even the pulsing electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) that stimulates bone repair and helps astronauts reduce bone density loss — electromagnetic frequency treatments have legitimate, evidence-based, applications. [2, 3]
There is also some evidence that PEMF can help people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis , and also that it can soothe muscle pain . As arthritis and muscle pain are both symptoms people being treated for Lyme Disease and those suffering from post-treatment Lyme Disease syndrome can experience , there is something to be said for the idea that pulsing electromagnetic field therapy, in particular, may play a role in the management of these conditions. PEMF seems to be a very safe therapy, and if you are interested, we'd suggest you speak to your (qualified!) healthcare provider about this.
How Is Electromagnetic Frequency Therapy Used By Alternative Lyme Disease Treatment Proponents?
An extensive study to determine what alternative chronic Lyme Disease treatments are currently being marketed determined that six different kinds of energy and radiation therapies were being sold at the time the research was conducted. Alongside electromagnetic frequency therapy in the form of so-called "rife machines", people are using :
- UV light
- Proton therapy
- "Cold" lasers
- Saunas and steam rooms
Some of these — saunas come to mind — may soothe sore muscles and help you temporarily feel better. Surely, that's all people are suggesting they can do? Well, not exactly.
Browsing the web further, I discovered that rife machines are said to "fight pathogens and bacterial infections", something for which no scientific evidence exists. The basic theory behind this device was developed by a Royal Raymond Rife who did most of his research in the 1930s, and it seems his ideas are still popular among "naturopathic doctors".
As appealing as these devices might sound, antibiotics are the only proven treatment for Lyme Disease. People suffering from persistent symptoms after being already treated with them (something known as post-treatment Lyme Disease and also sometimes chronic Lyme Disease) should talk to their qualified medical doctors about treatment and management.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explicitly warns against the use of unproven alternative therapies  for good reason. One is that alternative treatments can be dangerous. Another is that you may refrain from pursuing scientifically-proven treatments while using alternative therapies.This is particularly relevant to people who believe they have "chronic Lyme Disease" without ever receiving a Lyme Disease diagnosis on the basis of lab tests, sometimes because practitioners of alternative medicine have given them this "diagnosis". In this case, the cause of your symptoms is still a mystery, and you'd most benefit from proper diagnosis.
Rife machines and other energy and radiation therapies will not cure Lyme Disease. You'll need antibiotics if you have had a Lyme Disease diagnosis. Plain and simple, foregoing antibiotics will allow your Lyme Disease to progress to later stages, leading to ever more unpleasant and dangerous symptoms.
Electromagnetic frequency therapy may, however, be of some help to people who are struggling with the persistent after-effects of Lyme Disease once they've been treated, and this is something you could consult your healthcare provider about.
Should you run into any practitioner of alternative medicine, like a naturopath, who claims rife machines will kill bacteria, you will do yourself a favor by running in another direction — to a real doctor. I've not found any evidence that rife machines do active harm to the body, but they do cost money that you'd be better off spending on something that will actually help you.