Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: An Analysis of the Current Treatment Options

Pain Physician. 2020 Jul;23(4):429-438.


Background: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) is a multifaceted disease that can present with a variety of types of pain. Unfortunately, both the mechanisms and treatments for pain are poorly understood. The proposed treatments for the various musculoskeletal pain syndromes in EDS have had variable success, and it becomes much more imperative to better define and evaluate the current treatment modalities in treating this debilitating disease.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to investigate the currently available treatment modalities for patients with EDS and their efficacies in pain and symptom relief.

Study design: Retrospective cohort study.

Setting: Institutional physical medicine and rehabilitation primary care clinic.

Methods: All patients were seen between January 2015 and April 2019, in which 98 patients with EDS were identified through retrospective chart review. Institutional review board approval was obtained, and all patients provided written consent to be included in the study. We reviewed various treatment modalities, including complimentary/alternative treatments, opioids/opioid-like medications, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, physical therapy, occupational therapy, muscle relaxants, neuropathic modulators, steroids, surgery/procedures, and acetaminophen. Treatment methods were extracted from individual patient charts, and efficacy was grouped into 3 categories: improvement, no effect, or worsened symptoms.

Results: The most common treatments used were complimentary/alternative treatments (n = 88). Occupational therapy and bracing were the most effective options with 70% of patients reporting improvement. Neuropathic modulators were the least well tolerated with 47% of patients reporting adverse effects.

Limitations: Men were a small percentage of the study. Patients were not randomized, and pain score reporting was subjective. Patient data were extracted from a single practice setting. Timing and symptom onset were not measured.

Conclusions: There is a relative paucity of published literature regarding the various treatment methods for EDS. Although our study is able to identify positive and negative trends with certain modalities, it is vital to understand that EDS is not a uniform diagnosis among patients, and that a combination of several different treatments usually is needed for optimal symptom control. Further research and investigation are necessary to develop a comprehensive treatment database for this complex condition.

Key words: Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, pain, hypermobility, arthralgia, subluxation, genetic, physical therapy, interventional pain.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / administration & dosage
  • Arthralgia / diagnosis
  • Arthralgia / therapy
  • Cohort Studies
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Complementary Therapies / trends
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Relaxants, Central / administration & dosage
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / diagnosis*
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / therapy*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / trends
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Muscle Relaxants, Central