Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is a connective tissue disorder which means the “recipe” for making connective tissue is missing a few “ingredients”. It can’t be changed by taking a medication or a supplement. Taking a collagen supplement won’t do anything beneficial for someone who has EDS. However, there are beneficial protocols out there that can help different symptoms.
There are 13 different types of EDS. This page will be focusing on the hypermobility type, known as hEDS, and it still includes all the other types as well. With hEDS, the body will hyperextend beyond the normal range of motion of a joint. You’ll recognize people like this because we used to call them “double jointed” as kids or they could perform some kind of contortionist activity. They also are told they have “velvet-like skin”. Soft skin is a hallmark of hEDS and other EDS types. According to the Beighton Scale, we evaluate the elbows, the knees, the wrist – by touching the thumb to the forearm or by bending the middle finger back to become parallel with the forearm or wrist, and finally by touching the toes with the hands flat on the ground. There are a few other diagnostic check marks to be done, but these are the hallmark overextension joints. Someone with hEDS may also be hyper-flexibile in their spine, the neck, hips, fingers, toes, ankles, etc.
A lot of times, people who don’t know they have hEDS may have experienced numerous ankle issues, either sprains, strains or even broken bones. They also have a tendency to be “clutzy”, such as falling over ‘nothing there’ or suddenly bumping into a wall they’ve passed every day.
There are a lot of co-morbidities that go along with EDS and hEDS. One of them is Dysautonomia which also includes POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), chronic subluxations or dislocations of various joints in the body, a lot of gastrointestinal upset leading to IBS, chronic headaches and migraines, widespread musculoskeletal pain, cardiac issues, skin issues, and the list goes on.
There is a common misconception about hEDS and chiropractic care. First, you must find a chiropractor who is knowledgeable about hEDS and takes into consideration all the subtle nuances of the individual patient who presents with hypermobility. Some hEDS patients have instability at the atlanto-occipital joint – the very top joint between the skull and the first vertebrae. There are a few gentle and subtle ways for this to be addressed, but only if the Doctor of Chiropractic is aware of this instability and has experience working with this presentation. Sometimes this can be carefully adjusted by using an Activator and sometimes this can be adjusted using manual static pressure release, and sometimes this area just needs to be left alone, so we work with other areas of the body.
One of the challenges of hEDS is a lack of proprioception in the body. This means that the body and brain are disconnected from where the body part is in relation to time and space. This is what leads to some of the “clutzy” behaviors. Chiropractic helps this as we can re-set the connection from the body part to the brain by re-teaching the proper range of motion and never bringing the joint beyond it’s natural limit. Sometimes using myofascial release is needed to get the muscles to stop spasming and restore normal lengthening and shortening of a particular muscle group.
Often we will find subluxations in the rib cage that need to be addressed. Most of the time we find these subluxations in the spine, shoulders, hips, fingers and even toes. Sometimes there may be a dislocation of a joint, usually shoulders, and often from simply rolling over in bed. In the State of Georgia, chiropractors can not reduce a dislocation – you will have to go to Urgent Care or the Emergency Department. We have found that when this happens a lot, the patient is taught how to self-reduce a dislocation, however we always encourage follow-up with their medical care team when having multiple dislocations.
The chiropractic realm is dedicated to the subluxation – barely millimeters of movement or separation from the joint complex, and includes it’s own complex of symptoms from a neurological, muscular, skeletal, even vascular standpoint. In this office, Dr. Seebacher, D.C.,chooses to adjust no more than once per week to give the body a chance to integrate all the wonderful things we have input into the body system. If a patient is experiencing a lot of pain or having a lot of issues that need attention, we may schedule two or possibly three times in one week but use different techniques or modalities such as myofascial release or micro-current. Adjusting anything more frequently could be more harmful to the connective tissue, such as the ligaments and tendons. We also focus more on the neurological aspects of healing and the myofascial release of tissue to bring awareness and healing to the body. We use micro-current in treating hEDS pain issues. Micro-current changes the tone of the tissue and has a cumulative effect on the areas being treated. Micro-current can be used to release scar tissue, relax tight muscles, regenerate tissue with certain frequencies and stimulate or regenerate nerve tissue and mitigate pain. Most importantly, micro-current has been highly beneficial in stimulating the Vagus Nerve – which is the longest nerve in the Parasympathetic (rest & digest) nervous system, and this helps dysautonomia and sympathetic dominance beautifully.
The goal of chiropractic care is to help you balance the nervous system and be able to shift between the two extremes without any interference. This balance between the Sympathetic (fight, flight, fawn, freeze) and the Parasympathetic (rest, digest) is often difficult for people to achieve, and getting stuck in sympathetic overload, or Sympathetic Dominance. This also happens with people who have Dysautonomia having challenges balancing their autonomic nervous system (sympathetic vs parasympathetic). We have a variety of ways to help this shifting and balancing and finding the best ways to help everyone with their individual needs.
Dr. Cynthia Seebacher, D.C., has personal experience working with EDS and Dysautonomia. Not only do these run in her immediate family, she focuses her work to assist patients with similar diagnoses to create balance, overall well-being, reduce pain, and empower patients with their health care needs.