How to Use Chiropractic Care as a Treatment for Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) is a genetic disorder that weakens connective tissues. The disorder is estimated to affect 1 in 5000 to 20,000 individuals worldwide. Though there are many treatments associated with the condition – including but not limited to dermatology, orthopedics, and rheumatology – none can fully cure it. 

One treatment that has proved effective in relieving the symptoms in numerous patients is chiropractic. According to data analyzed by StuffThatWorks, a crowdsourced platform specializing in treatment effectiveness analysis, chiropractic is one of the most tried treatments of the condition, helping relieve the symptoms in 72% of the patients who tried it to varying degrees.

What is Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS)?

Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (referred to as hEDS hereinafter) is an inherited connective tissue disease that is caused by a defective protein known as collagen. It’s widely accepted in the medical community that hEDS is the least severe and dangerous form of EDS, although huge complications are still a possibility. 

Although hEDS is identified to be a genetic disorder, the exact gene that causes it has not been identified yet. Therefore, this syndrome is hard to counteract medically. Inheritance of hEDS is autosomal dominant. This is why most common medical treatments are preventive management strategies – aimed at relieving its effects and negating complications that can worsen the patient’s condition.

Symptoms of hEDS

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of hEDS include.

Joint Hypermobility: hEDS patients commonly experience joint hypermobility in their knees, elbows, toes, and fingers. Hypermobility is identified by the effort required to dislocate the joints.

Subluxations & Joint Dislocations: Many hEDS patients report frequent joint (sometimes partial) dislocations, usually in their kneecaps, shoulders, and in the temporomandibular joint – the joint that connects a person’s skull to their lower jaw.

Overly-smooth Skin: hEDS patients often have overly smooth skin, which leads to it being very elastic and causing musculoskeletal pain. Patients also bruise easily. 

Severe Musculoskeletal Pain: Chronic pain that affects the patient’s joints, ligaments, tendons, bones, and muscles is also a sign of hEDS.

Pregnancy Complications: Female hEDS patients are at increased risk of having pregnancy complications such as rapid delivery, labor, and premature rupturing of membranes.

The effects of hEDS can be agonizingly painful for patients. However, patients can try chiropractic care/treatment to help relieve the symptoms. Although not widely recognized among the scientific community as a medical avenue to take when treating hEDS, there is evidence that it helps relieve the hEDS symptoms.

Is Chiropractic Treatment Safe For hEDS Patients?

It is a very reasonable question – considering the fact that chiropractic care involves a lot of bending, stretching, and rubbing, and that hEDS patients have weak connective tissues and hypermobile joints. 

The first and foremost piece of advice is that patients should consult their medical practitioner before starting any treatment on their own, and must only act according to their advice. 

Physical therapy and chiropractic care/treatment/therapy are both effective treatments for hEDS. For some people, one works better than the other, and vice versa. As long as the patient has a professional’s approval, they can undertake chiropractic treatment.

Chiropractic Treatment: What Does the Research Say?

Considering how widespread this disorder is, there has been lots of research done on using chiropractic care/treatment/therapy as an hEDS treatment. In this section, we will go over a few cases and their conclusions.

In the study, titled “Chiropractic management of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome: A report of two cases” by Christopher J. Colloca and Bradley S. Polkinghorn, two disabled EDS patients having spinal, neck, and back pain were analyzed. Some more common ground that the two shared was that both had tissue fragility, joint hypermobility, and abnormal spinal curvatures. 

After being treated with chiropractic methods, the patients reported a remarkable decrease in pain and disability. They were also able to cut down on anti-inflammation medicines and painkillers.

Using Chiropractic as hEDS Treatment

Even though there have been no reports of harm or worsening of the symptoms in hEDS patients after they underwent chiropractic treatment/therapy, patients must only undertake it if they have the approval of their medical practitioner. 

The study by Colloca and Polkinghorn states that low-force chiropractic techniques must be applied in the therapy as they are more preferable for patients with tissue fragility and flexible joints. Moreover, low-force methods ensure that the consequences of spinal manipulation are minimized. 

There are several easy chiropractic exercises that patients can do at home, some of which include:

Upper Back Stretch

1. Sit down. 

2. Hold your hands behind you in such a way that your palms face away from you.

3. Lower your head until your chin touches your chest. 

4. Stretch the muscles in your shoulders, upper back, and neck by gently rolling your upper back. 

Do 5 reps at a time.

Gluteal Stretch

1. Lie down. 

2. Place your feet on the floor with your knees bent and your lower back relaxed. 

3. Place one of your ankles on top of the opposite knee for 30 seconds. While doing so, make sure to keep your lower back pressed against the floor. Also, make sure to keep your hips straight so that your back is not arching upward. 

Repeat twice for each knee.

Knees to Chest

1. Lie down. 

2. Place your feet on the floor with your knees bent and your lower back relaxed. 

3. Bring both of your knees towards your chest while keeping your abdominal muscles stiff. While doing the reps, hold your knees on top or on behind, whichever you feel comfortable with. Also, make sure to prevent your back from arching upward. 

Do as many reps as you can.

In Conclusion

Chiropractic techniques, when done right, can positively impact an hEDS patient. Several studies, most notably by Colloca and Polkinghorn, conclude that chiropractic care can help relieve joint flexibility and tissue fragility, commonly observed in patients suffering from hEDS, and is hence a viable treatment option for the syndrome.