I remember being in Physical Therapy school and being told that Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome was such a rare disorder and that I wouldn't see it much in the clinic setting. Fast forward a 10 years, and my client schedule is filled with people diagnosed with HSD/hEDS.
Why is my schedule so full with these clients? Many PTs continue to believe that this is a rare disorder and do not know how to help people with this condition.
What makes HSD/hEDS so unique? Well, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a connective tissue disorder where there is a genetic mutation. Since ligaments and tendons are primarily made up of connective tissue, they don't tend to be as strong or as durable and this can lead to joint dislocations, hypermobility, tissue tearing, and injuries. Since the natural stability of the joint is lacking due to the laxity of the ligaments and tendons, the muscles then try to help stabilize the joint. However, this creates it's own problem when the muscles are always working and thus creating too much tension.
So if a person is having too much muscle tension or tightness, they are often told to stretch it out. But what if I told you that many of my clients report to me that they don't feel a stretch or pull when they are doing their stretches with PERFECT form. This is what I started asking myself early in my PT career. And I had a lightbulb moment. The answer is so simple, yet we often don't see it.
The reason why stretches don't (sometimes) work is because when we got to stretch, the weakest link is going to be pulled first. Since the ligaments and tendons are already vulnerable due to their increased laxity and genetic mutations, they get pulled first during the stretch, but the muscle doesn't get pulled on. So these EDS clients do the stretches as prescribed by their PT or medical provider, but never feel relief from their muscles. In fact, the repetitive intense stretching could actually be causing the ligaments and tendons to be worn down and eventually injured or torn.
Then, how do release these tight muscles without damaging the lax ligaments and tendons? We have to use other means to target the muscle specifically. I call these "massage-y techniques" as an umbrella term to simplify the concept:
massage (simple enough)
trigger point release
soft tissue mobilization
massage gun / percussion massager
IASTM / ASTYM / Gua Sha
You don't have to do all of the techniques to see success, but you might need to utilize a combination of these "tools" to see results.
Since I started implementing my unique treatment style with my HSD/EDS clients, I have seen them achieve amazing results. Now that they have more tools in their toolbox, they are empowered to manage their symptoms from their diagnosis and enjoy fun activities with their loved ones!
Do you or someone you know suffer from Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder or Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome? Or do you think you or someone you know might have HSD/hEDS? Save my page or share this link with them. I can help answer questions that might have been unanswered for so many years.
-Stay Strong. Stay Flexible.