May is National Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome Awareness Month. This syndrome is considered a rare disorder, but over the past couple of decades, we have seen many EDS patients in our office. Frequently, they are young women, and oftentimes athletes, suffering from chronic pain and joint subluxations due to instability.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a group of connective tissue disorders that have joint hypermobility as the central character, but which can also cause symptoms and complications of the skin, joints, blood vessels and other organs throughout the body. When this instability is present in the cervical spine, the vertebrae can compress blood vessels or irritate nerves, causing symptoms like dizziness, facial pain, arm pain and numbness, and migraine headaches. The various disorders are characterized by a defect in the collagen, a protein that provides strength and elasticity to the majority of our body parts from our ears to our toes. Those with EDS are often misdiagnosed because the array of systems involved often presents a challenge to physicians unfamiliar with the condition. Patients can suffer numerous dislocations and injuries because their ligaments, the soft connective tissue that connects bone to bone, are too elastic. While this can be an edge for some gymnasts, allowing them to bend and twist in amazing ways, this same feature makes their joints unstable and prone to injury.
The traditional treatment recommendations can include wearing numerous joint braces and discontinuing activities. This can be crushing to the spirit of a young person. Treatments directed at ligament repair are often the most successful at alleviating pain and regaining a normal level of activity and social engagement. Regenerative treatment options, including Prolotherapy, can provide a strengthening effect directly to the loose connective tissue, and therefore, effectively treat the various sequelae of EDS, including joint dislocations and the associated symptoms.