Neck Pain and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Neck Pain and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome | Pain Neck Blog – PainNeck.Com by LMatthews – December 12, 2011

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome may be the cause of neck pain in some patients and at least three of the most common types of the disorder can contribute to chronic pain in the neck.

ligaments, blood vessels, joints, internal organs, skin, and the inter-cellular matrix are affected by the defect leading to a variety of symptoms.

it is well understood that individual experiences of the disease are extremely variable.

Most patients suffering from neck pain due to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome will also be experiencing pain in other joints of the body and a degree of hyper-flexibility that can cause them to become injured even performing fairly routine activities.

It is thought that EDS is under-diagnosed due to the overlap of symptoms with other illnesses, general aches and pains, and the complexity of the effects of the connective tissue disorder.

Chronic Pain and Joint Degeneration

The severity of the pain and the effect of this on a patients’ quality of life are variable with some requiring significant intervention to prevent serious joint damage occurring

The chronic pain which usually characterizes the disease is often reported as worsening during a patient’s lifetime, perhaps due to progressive wear and tear and damage to the joints.

Neck pain may then result from

due to vascular manifestations of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Effects of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Disruption to sleep and physical activity are two of the most frequently reported effects of EDS, both of which have wide-ranging ramifications for general health and well-being.

The connective tissue disorder also affects patients’ ability to study and to work, and almost half of all patients report that Ehlers-Danlos syndrome adversely affects their sex life

Hyperflexibility, Neck Pain, and EDS

Hypermobility type 3 Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is usually considered the least severe of the classifications of EDS although it is still likely to cause significant pain and disruption in a patient’s life

Dislocations and subluxations are common, occurring with even minor trauma or no apparent cause in some cases but frequently resulting in severe pain

Joint degeneration is common, as is chronic pain not connected to specific dislocations or osteoarthritis.

Patients often bruise very easily when they have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and many have difficulty maintaining bone density, leading to the increased risk of osteoporotic fractures in later life.

Neck Pain Relief in Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Treating EDS involves physical therapy appropriate for the degree of disability and symptom severity in each patient.

Where mobility is affected, patients may use braces, wheelchairs, and scooters but are usually not advised to rely on crutches, canes, or walkers as these can put extra strain on the upper body.

Pain medication is often prescribed but patients may have a difficult time finding a suitable analgesic with manageable side-effects

A combination of therapies is usually beneficial in order to reduce acute suffering whilst attempting to reduce future injury or degeneration of joints. Low-resistance exercise can be helpful in maintaining the strength and stability of joints and ergonomics are very helpful in reducing strain whilst at work or study.

Spinal Stenosis, Pinched Nerves, and Neck Pain

Neck pain from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome can be a result of

  • pinched nerves in the neck,
  • muscle strains or sprains from accidental hyperextension,
  • ischaemia following damage to the vasculature in the neck and cervical spine, and even
  • fracture, subluxation, and spinal stenosis resulting from the condition.

Fibromyalgia, CFS, EDS and Neck Pain

Myofascial spasm and muscular pain is also seen in many patients, with aching joints that throb or are stiff and tender. This is particularly common in the spinal muscles and can contribute to back and neck pain

Hypermobility in the cervical spine may produce similar symptoms to those of whiplash associated disorder as the spinals structures are repeatedly exposed to excessive movements which wear down the cartilage, intervertebral discs, and bones in the spine

Neuropathy and Neck Pain in Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Neck pain with neuropathy is also possible in EDS, with radicular pain such as pins and needles in the arms and hands, numbness, burning sensations, and feelings of heat or cold also experienced by some.

Nerve conduction studies are not commonly used during diagnosis and the nerve fibers may be normal in patients with the pain and altered sensation originating instead from spinal nerves that are pinched by 

Neck pain and headache are not uncommon and are thought to be caused by

  • tension in the neck muscles,
  • reduced circulation to the head and neck through vascular damage and blood vessel compression, and
  • possible dysfunction on the temporomandibular joint (the jaw).

Managing EDS

Where neck pain is caused by Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, patients are likely to require physical therapy, pain medications, and assistive devices as well as regular check-ups to monitor the progression of the condition.

Pain medications are thought to be underprescribed in cases of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and physicians are advised to tailor medication to the subjective experience of patients rather than simply taking objective findings into account.

Neck Pain Relief for Patients with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

Patients may be given the best chance of managing their symptoms effectively when their condition and all direct and indirect effects are taken into consideration.

Treatment of neck pain from Ehlers-Danlos syndrome needs careful management in order to reduce the risks of nerve damage and spinal cord compression.

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