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Finding Relief with Acupuncture: A Holistic Approach to Managing Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Updated: May 1



Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a complex group of disorders that affects the connective tissues supporting the skin, bones, blood vessels, and many other organs and tissues of the body. For those diagnosed with EDS, this genetic condition can present a wide array of symptoms, from joint hypermobility, chronic pain, and skin that bruises and cuts easily, to a heightened risk of developing life-threatening complications. At Lighthouse Acupuncture and Wellness Center of Jupiter, Dr. Lisa McCoog, DACM, AP, is an expert in treating Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). Her approach to managing Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is distinctively different from others in the field as she incorporates traditional Chinese Medicine with Western medical techniques and modalities. This approach not only addresses the immediate concerns associated with EDS but also aims at enhancing the overall quality of life for her patients. Through a tailored combination of acupuncture and personalized wellness plans, her method offers a unique perspective on managing the condition, setting a new standard for EDS care.


The Complexity of EDS and Connective Tissue Disorders


What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?


Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a collection of inherited conditions that affect your connective tissues - primarily your skin, joints, and blood vessel walls. In simpler terms, EDS compromises your body’s ability to produce collagen, the 'glue' that helps maintain the integrity, strength, and elasticity of these tissues, making them more vulnerable to damage and injury.


Types of EDS and Their Characteristics


There are many subtypes of EDS, each with its own set of symptoms and characteristic features. Type-specific details include:


  • Classical EDS (cEDS): Characterized by skin that can be stretched extensively and is very fragile, resulting in severe scarring

  • Hypermobile EDS (hEDS): Joints that stretch farther than is normal, skin that is easily bruised, can be soft, and is slightly elastic (finding that could be "welcomed signs" into our practice for EDS diagnosis)

  • Vascular EDS (vEDS): Affecting blood vessels and internal organs

Navigating the World of EDS Symptoms and Diagnosis


Recognizing the Signs of EDS


Symptoms of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) vary widely depending on the specific subtype present, but there are several common manifestations shared by many who have the condition. These include:


  • Joint Hypermobility: The ability of joints to move beyond the normal range expected for a particular joint.

  • Skin Fragility: Skin that is easily bruised, tears, and scars, often healing slowly.

  • Chronic Pain: Widespread pain in joints and muscles, which can be debilitating.

  • Fatigue: A pervasive sense of tiredness that is not relieved by rest.

  • Osteoarthritis: Early-onset arthritis can occur due to joint instability.

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Problems with digestion, including but not limited to, gastritis, esophageal dysmotility, and irritable bowel syndrome.

These symptoms can significantly impact the quality of life, leading to challenges in daily activities and, in some cases, resulting in disability.


The Diagnostic Journey


Diagnosing EDS can be challenging. The symptoms may mimic other conditions, and many individuals see multiple healthcare providers before receiving the correct diagnosis. Physicians often use a combination of family history, physical examination, and genetic testing to diagnose EDS accurately. The diagnostic process can be both emotionally and physically challenging for patients, underscoring the need for supportive care and effective strategies for managing pain.


The Daily Battleground: Living with EDS


Managing Chronic Pain and Fatigue


For people living with EDS, chronic pain and fatigue are not just occasional discomforts but daily companions. Managing these ongoing symptoms is a significant part of EDS care. Conventional treatments often include analgesics, physical therapy, and sometimes, invasive joint correction surgeries. Despite these efforts, many EDS patients still face challenges when it comes to controlling pain and tiredness, leading them to look for alternative therapies that could help.


Mental Health and EDS


The ongoing struggle with a chronic, painful condition that not only hinders mobility, but also diminishes one's independence, often culminates in a spectrum of mental/emotional challenges including depression and anxiety. However, acupuncture can play a pivotal role in managing the mental health component of EDS. This comprehensive care is crucial in helping them manage not just the psychological burdens of EDS but also in facilitating an improved engagement with daily living activities, promoting a semblance of normalcy and autonomy in their lives.


How Acupuncture Can Alleviate EDS Symptoms


Studies have suggested that acupuncture may help manage EDS symptoms in several ways, including:


  • Pain Relief: This involves reducing inflammation and pain through the release of endorphins and other neurochemicals. These natural substances work in the body to alleviate pain, mimicking the effects of pain relief medication but without the side effects.

  • Improving Circulation: Enhancing blood flow to affected areas can significantly aid the healing process. Improved circulation ensures that oxygen and nutrients are efficiently delivered to tissues, facilitating recovery and function.

  • Stabilizing the Joints: Improving joint functionality and strength is crucial, especially when combined with physical therapy. This can lead to better mobility, less pain, and decreased risk of future injuries.

  • Improving Sleep: Quality sleep is vital for the body's recovery and overall well-being. Effective EDS interventions can help regulate sleep patterns, leading to more restful and restorative sleep.

  • Stress Reduction: Managing and reducing stress is a key component of EDS, as stress can exacerbate symptoms. Techniques that focus on stress reduction can indirectly improve physical symptoms by promoting a state of relaxation.

  • Improved Energy: Many individuals with EDS experience fatigue. Interventions that improve energy levels can make a significant difference in daily functioning and quality of life.

  • Improving Mental Health: Addressing mental health concerns is integral, promoting relaxation and stress relief. Mental health and physical health are deeply interconnected, making this aspect critical for holistic treatment.

Dr. Lisa's expertise as an acupuncturist extends far beyond the norm, positioning her as a leader in EDS and a wide array of other symptoms. With a blend of traditional techniques and innovative approaches, she creates personalized treatment plans that address not just the physical symptoms, but also the emotional and psychological aspects of ailments. Her compassionate care and profound understanding of the body’s energy systems have made her treatments profoundly effective, helping countless individuals find relief and achieve balance. Dr. Lisa's meticulous attention to her patients’ holistic well-being truly sets her apart as an extraordinary practitioner in the field of acupuncture.


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