Finding Hope: Treatments & Advice for Those Living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
Chronic pain - or pain that lasts longer than six months - is a difficult and often debilitating diagnosis, and for those living with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), the joint pain is very real. EDS causes loose joints that are prone to dislocation, hyperextensible joints, and is linked to the early onset of osteoarthritis.
The associated pain can vastly limit your daily activities, and can wreak havoc on your emotional state. Not to mention that treating pain with prescription medication can be a slippery slope for addiction. Luckily, there are still ways you can manage your pain levels so you can continue living your life.
As the chronic pain management website OvercomingPain.com insists, “Chronic pain is a serious problem but is often made worse by misinformation, negative attitudes and beliefs, outdated ideas [and] negative emotions.” When it comes to pain management, getting the right mindset and maintaining a positive attitude are two key steps that will help set the foundation for your success, even with an invisible illness like EDS.
Ask for Help
With a condition such as EDS, the risk of further injury is intensified by joints that are easily dislocated, and although you might think that movement would help lessen the pain, it may make things worse. Living with chronic pain means some days will be worse than others, and unfortunately it is hard to predict what each day will be like. It is important to ask for help with daily activities when you need it, such as hiring a housekeeper to help with upkeep, finding yardwork help, or simply asking a friend or family member to accompany you to the grocery store to help with reaching and heavy lifting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help, and your body will thank you in return.
Acupuncture is an ancient healing practice that has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including pain, for centuries in Asian societies. It has recently started gaining popularity in Western cultures as well, and even Harvard Medical School has been supporting the use of acupuncture for pain relief in recent years. Multiple studies have shown the healing effects of acupuncture, particularly on pain relief, and the FDA has approved acupuncture needles as “medical devices” since the mid-1990s. For those suffering from chronic pain, it is worth a try, however, make sure the acupuncturist is aware of your EDS, as one of the symptoms of EDS is stretchy skin that is prone to bruising.
Interested in acupuncture but scared of needles? Try acupressure instead. This form of Traditional Chinese Medicine has the same effect as acupuncture - without the use of any needles. As with acupuncture, let the acupressurist know of your EDS, as you will require a gentler touch.
Far infrared sauna
Far infrared saunas have long been popular in Europe and are now catching on in Western societies as well. This sauna therapy, which uses far infrared light to heal the body from the inside out, is useful in treating a variety of health conditions. Recent studies have shown that regular use of a far infrared sauna can significantly decrease chronic pain, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and more. An unexpected benefit was that sauna usage also improved mobility, making it easier for patients to walk afterwards.
Massage therapy has a role in pain management and has been shown to be effective in pain relief and management. When incorporated into a patient’s pain management program, massage has also been shown to reduce the need for pain reliever medications. Rather than stretching your already loose joints, the massage should focus on strengthening the musculature.
Nobody wants to live with long-term or lifelong pain. The techniques listed above are just a few of the proven tools you can incorporate into your life for pain management. Don’t be discouraged if these options don’t work for you; every body is different and chances are, there is another technique or healing practice that might be better suited for your body. However, it’s clear that there are a wide variety of offerings available these days that can have a very positive impact on the quality of life for those living with EDS.