Use of complementary therapies for chronic pain management in patients with reported Ehlers-Danlos syndrome or hypermobility spectrum disorders

Am J Med Genet A. 2020 Nov;182(11):2611-2623. doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.61837. Epub 2020 Sep 10.


Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes (EDS) and related Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders (HSD) are debilitating connective tissue disorders that feature a prominent pain component for which there are limited therapeutic options for pain management. Consequently, many patients try various non-prescribed treatments, including complementary and alternative therapies that have not been well studied in the EDS/HSD patient population. We surveyed over 500 individuals through the EDS Society who reported having been diagnosed with EDS or HSD to ascertain what complementary and alternative therapies were used and their reported effectiveness in alleviating pain and improving quality of life. Specifically, we focused on the use of traditional Chinese therapies, herbal medications, and marijuana. The most commonly reported therapies, used by 70-92% of participants, were non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, acetaminophen, opioids, and physical therapy. Therapies rated by participants as most efficacious were opioids, physical therapy, and marijuana with 10-24% of those using these therapies rating them as extremely helpful. Patient-initiated complementary therapy use in EDS/HSD patients is widespread at 56%. Complementary therapies were largely utilized by EDS/HSD patients with higher reported pain levels. Providers caring for EDS/HSD patients should be aware of these data showing broad usage of predominantly non-prescribed therapies and be prepared to consider such usage in working collaboratively with these patients to develop comprehensive treatment plans to manage their chronic pain complications.

Keywords: Ehlers-Danlos; complementary therapy; hypermobility Spectrum disorders; joint hypermobility; marijuana; pain management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cannabis
  • Chronic Pain / therapy
  • Complementary Therapies / adverse effects
  • Complementary Therapies / methods*
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / therapy*
  • Male
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Plant Preparations / therapeutic use
  • Quality of Life
  • Young Adult


  • Plant Preparations