As its benefits become more well-known, people with the hypermobility type are starting to incorporate massage for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome into their management approach.
What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
Only one in 5000 people have a diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a collection of genetic disorders that affect the connective tissue in the body. People who have EDS don’t make enough collagen, which gives strength and structure to the tissue, and it manifests in several different ways. The vascular type leads to weakened blood vessels, which can lead to easy bruising and ruptured vessels. For some it shows up in the skin, leading to sagging and excess skin. Others experience it in the heart, bones, eyes, muscles, and spine.
Although EDS can show up in a number of ways across organ systems, at Nimbus we see people who have the hypermobility type. With hypermobility, the ligaments don’t have enough connective tissue to keep the joints in proper alignment which often leads to frequent dislocations and subluxations. Many people who have overly flexible joints live with muscular pain as their muscles work overtime to compensate for the ligaments. It often leads to early onset of arthritis due to the strain on the joints.
How can massage help?
To be sure, massage cannot cure EDS. However, massage can help ease pain. Carefully applied techniques can soothe sore muscles without stressing the joints. Part of the Nimbus staff training includes learning about Ehler-Danlos Syndrome and helping people who have hypermobility.
Your therapist would do an individualized intake to assess your specific case. However, the therapists do follow some general rules of thumb. First, they would avoid stretching– the joints already surpass their range of motion. She or he would also minimize joint movement techniques and use support if moving one. Although you and the therapist may agree that you would benefit from firm pressure, the therapist would use a targeted approach to avoid unnecessarily aggressive maneuvers.
Very little research* exists discussing massage for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. So far, our clinical experience has been that people do get pain relief from massage. Direct compression, friction, and applied gliding seem to have some positive effect as well as myofascial release. If you want to add a complementary approach to your pain management plan, it’s definitely worth a try.
*Massage for acute & chronic pain in EDS “For methods used for both acute and chronic pain, those perceived as most helpful were opioids, massage therapies, splints or braces, heat therapy and avoiding potentially dangerous activities.”