Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders Injection Treatments

Ross Hauser, MD

In many of the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome patients we see, there is a longing for understanding. This unfulfilled desire to know what was wrong with them has led these patients through a journey of years of bouncing between clinician and clinic, from doctor to alternative practitioner, from self-help guideline to self-help guideline with few answers and little help. This maybe what is happening in your case.

Some of the emails we get reflect this desire in patients. Despite being a “complex,” or “difficult to mange case” many Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome patients have a simple goal:

As you can see in their comments, these once healthy active people have now been reduced to people who are barely able to walk because of excessive joint pain and excessive fatigue. They find themselves managing their energy enough to prioritize the daily tasks they must do and leave “non-essential” tasks to “better days.”

“I do not have a diagnosis, only a lot of theories. I have been seeking treatment for years. All the doctors and therapists can tell me is that all my problems are because I am too flexible.”

In a younger more active group of patients, we will often hear a patient story that includes chronic joint dislocation.

What we hear about the most, is that these people ask why it took years to figure out what was wrong with them. Why do they have so much pain? Why had they been to countless health care providers over years, and in some cases decades, and came out of all this no better, more confused, and seemingly hopeless that anything can help them?

We can only explain that medicine is still reaching for answers. These people are in our office because they have come to explore Prolotherapy, a treatment that they had never heard of, or been recommended to but they found out about in hEDS discussion groups or through their own internet research.

Injections may be one answer

In this article, we will lay the foundation for the treatment of patients suffering from Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes, specifically Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders with Prolotherapy injections. The treatment is designed to stimulate connective tissue growth and rebuilding in damaged painful joints where there is collagen deficiency. Patient outcomes are described below. We will also discuss other treatments that may benefit the patient.

The “unmet need of the patients”

From a patient: “I was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and I was given a big package of information. The first thing I did was look at the treatments.”

Patients still have trouble to find fast access to correct diagnosis and treatment.

In October 2018, an extended team of European researchers working as the European Reference Network for  “Rare and Complex CONnective tissue and musculoskeletal diseases NETwork (ReCONNET)”, published these finding on the unmet needs of the Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes patient in the journal Rheumatic & Musculoskeletal Diseases Open.(1)

“Many needs are unfulfilled, including access to care and treatment, educational therapy, professional educational programs, and awareness.”

At present, EDS is not curable, but only ‘treatable’.

At present, a good number of patients are not taken seriously or even accused of hypochondria, Munchausen or Munchausen-by-proxy.

“In conclusion, there is a long road ahead for the EDS Community. Many needs are unfulfilled, including access to care and treatment, educational therapy, professional educational programs, and awareness.”

Doctors are trying to understand the “mental aspects” of hypermobility spectrum disorder and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

A team of international researchers published a paper in the journal Disability and rehabilitation.(2) The summary points of this paper point to the doctor’s need to understand all aspects of the patient’s problems. Here is what they wrote:

“The tissue fragility characteristic of this condition leads to multi-systemic symptoms in which pain, often severe, chronic, and disabling, is the most experienced. Clinical observations suggest that the complex patient with EDS hypermobility-type is refractory (does not respond) toward several biomedical and physical approaches . . . the identification of psychological aspects involved in the pain experience can be useful to improve interventions for this under-recognized pathology.

As in other chronic pain conditions, these aspects should be more explored in EDS hypermobility-type, and integrated into chronic pain prevention and management programs. Implications for Rehabilitation Clinicians should be aware that joint hypermobility may be associated with other health problems, and in its presence suspect a heritable disorder of connective tissue such as the Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) hypermobility-type, in which chronic pain is one of the most frequent and invalidating symptoms.

It is necessary to explore the psychosocial functioning of patients as part of the overall chronic pain management in the EDS hypermobility-type, especially when they do not respond to biomedical approaches as psychological factors may be operating against rehabilitation.”

The problem of just treating symptoms

When there is confusion as to the cause of the patient’s problems and there is confusion with how to treat this patient, the fall back, as many of you know, is to treat the symptoms until hopefully and underlying cause can be found. Sometimes all there is is treating symptoms with the hope of improving the person’s daily quality of life.

An April 2021 paper in the journal of the American Academy of Family Physicians (3) offered guidance to general practitioners on looking beyond joint dislocation and joint pain. Here the study authors suggested the role of the family doctor in helping patients with Hypermobile EDS.

“Hypermobile EDS and, less commonly, hypermobility spectrum disorders may also be associated with several extra-articular symptoms, including anxiety disorders, chronic pain, fatigue, orthostatic intolerance, functional gastrointestinal disorders, and pelvic and bladder dysfunction.

The central goals of therapy are managing symptoms, preventing joint injury, and educating patients about their condition.

Based on limited evidence, patients with hypermobile EDS/hypermobility spectrum disorders may benefit from physical and occupational therapy, psychological support, and self-management. Primary care physicians play a key role not only in initial recognition, diagnosis, and patient education, but by virtue of their ongoing relationship they can also help oversee and coordinate the multidisciplinary team many of these patients require.”

The suggestion here is that the family doctor help coordinate and evaluate the patient’s treatment as many times the patient will see specialist after specialist and as you yourself may know first-hand, sometimes the specialists do not communicate and the patient is now thrown into a situation of isolated treatments without an understanding of the overall or holistic experience.

Treating the symptom of pain: Research suggests overall expert consensus indicates that pain medications are often not effective in long-term treatment.

The idea that Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders can be managed long-term with pain medications, anti-inflammatories, and opioids is being discredited. These pain medications can be beneficial in the short-term, detrimental in the long-term.

In November 2018, a review of patient outcomes and the medical research surrounding the management of pain was published in the medical journal Medicine (4) by a team of Canadian researchers. This review is a guide to helping other doctors understand the pain challenges of Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes patients.

Here are some of the learning points shared with clinicians:

Some of the things doctors should look for:

What type of pain medications should be offered?

In 2013, Caring Medical research lead by Ross Hauser, MD, published in the Journal of Prolotherapy (5) made these same points and added that many of these medicines accelerate joint destruction.(6)

“Pain management is a critical element in the treatment of hypermobility. While physical therapy and exercise may lend some degree of pain relief, individuals with hypermobility often require additional measures to manage joint pain. Patients with hypermobility disorders are often prescribed large doses of pain medication, such as acetaminophen, muscle relaxants, NSAIDs, and
antidepressants; over time, stronger medications (including narcotics) and higher doses may be required to deal with the effects of chronic pain.

These medications are helpful in the management of symptoms that prohibit patients from carrying out certain activities, but they have no effect in treating the underlying pathology of hypermobility and, in some cases, they may actually have a negative effect on joint tissues.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are one class of medications commonly prescribed for joint pain but can have a combative effect on joint health, due to their role in inhibiting the synthesis of collagen and articular cartilage synthesis. This can cause not only weakness in ligaments, but also in cartilage, tendon, and bone cells, contributing to an overall weakening of the joint.”

Understanding pain, Managing pain, Healing pain. Medicine searches for answers

When we see patients with Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders we understand the amount of pain that can be involved, we also need for the patient to understand what we are going to try to do is get rid of the pain by regenerating and repairing and healing connective tissue with Prolotherapy injections. The way we go about pain management is we try to heal joint and connective tissue damage. Understanding the treatment program is crucial.

“I have finally been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes and I am just as confused as before.”

One of the incredible things about Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes is the amount of confusion it can create in some patients and their doctors. A patient will come into our clinics having an idea that there are different classifications of Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes but unsure which one impacts them. Once in a while we will hear a patient say that they never got a classification because their primary doctor told them the classifications didn’t matter because there is nothing that can be done about it, there are no effective treatments.

Other patients will discuss their “medical team.” They have a neurologist, orthopedist, general practitioner, nutritionist, physical therapist, and others. The patients will say that these providers are all working hard for them but they are not getting any better.

There is also a question of confusion about genetic testing for Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes and what happens when that comes back “negative.”

Hypermobility Beighton Scoring System

The 2017 international classification of the Ehlers-Danlos syndromes – helping identify hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) type can be diagnosed without genetic testing

In 2017, the American Journal of Medical Genetics published an internationally agreed upon 2017 EDS Classification. This was the first such classification update since 1997. The new classifications seek to more specifically identify EDS patient symptoms and try to offer a recommendation to seek treatment.

Nosology is the study of diseases. It derives from the greek Nosos (diseases) and logia, the study of. Nosologies for Ehlers-Danlos syndromes have been revised for decades.

In 1998 a landmark paper from Peter Beighton of the University of Cape Town, South Africa published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics gives a history up until that time and the challenges of the 1998 doctor and defines new criteria in the diagnosis of Ehlers-Danlos syndromes. Here are the highlights of that research.(7)

Dr. Beighton proposed a revision of the classification of the Ehlers-Danlos syndromes based primarily on the cause of each type. This became the Revised Nosology, Villefranche 1998 to replace the Berlin nosology. In it six subtypes of Ehlers-Danlos syndromes were described. Now Ehlers-Danlos syndrome became Ehlers-Danlos syndromes.

Why look back to 1988?
If you are in your 40s, or 50s, or older you can offer a better answer to anyone. For some of you, it took decades to get a diagnosis. Back in 1988, you were one of the people that Dr. Beighton and his colleagues were looking to find a more specific term to describe what you had.

In 2017, forty-six (46) doctors and researchers co-published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics: The 2017 international classification of the Ehlers-Danlos syndromes. Their reasons for this new nosology are given below:

The new classifications try to address a stuck medicine and a stuck diagnosis waiting time

Medicine struggles for a better understanding of defective production of collagen and reduced musculoskeletal functioning by symptoms of joint laxity and frequent dislocations eventually leading to disability

The papers listed above and this paper published in June 2016 in the medical journal Disability and rehabilitation (9suggests that medical research seems to be stuck. Here a reiteration of the problems expressed in the 2015 and 2017 studies listed above. This research comes from Appalachian State University whose doctors sought to help provide answers for patients. Here are their bullet points.

Searching for criteria for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) in Adolescents because standard care patients do not get better. Not to say anything about the toil on the family and the patient looking for answers

Doctors at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and Harvard University have published their research in the February 2017 edition of the Journal of Pediatrics (10which describes the typical experience of an adolescent with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome type syndromes:

The researchers examined the medical records of 205 patients with EDS (ages 6-19 years) seen in sports medicine or orthopedic clinic at a large pediatric hospital over a 5-year period.

The researchers concluded: Despite extensive workup, the etiology of pain may not be identified. Large numbers of office visits, imaging studies, treatment prescriptions, and specialist referrals indicate considerable use of medical resources.

Comment: As above, we have a patient with a lot of health challenges. The many doctors and many tests they had come up with no answers.  Referring to the Norwegian study above:  “This may indicate one of the reasons why prognosis for these patients is poor.” In other words, the patients do not get better. Not to say anything about the toil on the family and patient.


In this video, you will meet our patient, Louise, watch her brave battle with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, and see the courage it took for her and her family to travel from Europe to come to Caring Medical for Prolotherapy. Since her treatment she has been able to go back into sports she thought she would no longer be able to participate in. Louise is a wonderful example of the Prolotherapy as a treatment for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. We are grateful for her and her mother’s wish to share their story.

A brief summary of Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – making a diagnosis of hEDS in clinical evaluation as there is no specific test available– from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

According to the United States Department of Health National Institute of Health, Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS) is diagnosed based on the presence of characteristic signs and symptoms, because there is no specific test available.

Some of the signs and symptoms of hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome vary but may include:

Diagnostic guidelines recommended by the NIH for hEDS does not include genetic testing

This is also from the NIH website:

“Tenascin X genetic testing is available outside of the United States, but the frequency of this abnormality in patients with hypermobility EDS is not known.”

There is a range of conditions that can accompany hEDS, although there is not enough data for them to become diagnostic criteria. While they’re associated with hEDS, they’re not proven to be the result of hEDS and they’re not specific enough to be criteria for diagnosis. Some of these include sleep disturbance, fatigue, postural orthostatic tachycardia (POTS), functional gastrointestinal disorders, dysautonomia, anxiety, and depression. These conditions may be more debilitating the joint symptoms; they often impair daily life, and they should be considered and treated.

Criteria 1: Generalized joint hypermobility (small and large joints) which is assessed by using the Beighton Score system and a questionnaire.

The Beighton score is calculated as follows:

  1. One point if while standing forward bending you can place palms on the ground with legs straight.
  2. One point for each elbow that bends backward.
  3. One point for each knee that bends backward.
  4. One point for each thumb that touches the forearm when bent backward.
  5. One point for each little finger that bends backward beyond 90 degrees.

Criteria 2: Two or more of the following features must be present (A&B, A&C, B&C, or A&B&C):

Feature A—systemic manifestations of a more generalized connective tissue disorder (a total of 5 out of 12 must be present)

  1. Unusually soft or velvety skin
  2. Mild skin hyperextensibility
  3. Unexplained striae (stretch marks) or rubrae (lines) at the back, groins, thighs, breasts and/or abdomen in adolescents, men or prepubertal women without a history of significant gain or loss of body fat or weight.
  4. Bilateral piezogenic papules of the heel (solid painful pimples)
  5. Recurrent or multiple abdominal hernia(s) (e.g., umbilical, inguinal, crural)
  6. Atrophic scarring involving at least two sites (Atrophic scarring are depressions in the skin commonly referred to as pockmarks).
  7. Pelvic floor, rectal, and/or uterine prolapse in children, men or nulliparous (never given birth) women without a history of morbid obesity or other known predisposing medical condition
  8. Dental crowding and high or narrow palate
  9. Arachnodactyly (abnormally long and thin fingers), as defined in one or more of the following:
    1. positive wrist sign (Steinberg sign) on both sides (Your pinky and thumb can touch when your circle your wrist with them);
    2. positive thumb sign (Walker sign) on both sides  (You can fold your thumb into your closed fist and the thumb tip extends outside the fist)
  10. Your arm span is greater than your height
  11. Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) mild or greater based on strict echocardiographic criteria
  12. Aortic root dilatation with Z-score > +2 (A tool to measure aortic elasticity)

Feature B—positive family history, with one or more first-degree relatives independently meeting the current diagnostic criteria for hEDS.

Feature C—musculoskeletal complications (must have at least 1 of 3 ):

  1. Musculoskeletal pain in 2 or more limbs, recurring daily for at least 3 months
  2. Chronic, widespread pain for more than 3 months
  3. Recurrent joint dislocations or frank joint instability (partial dislocations), without trauma injury (a or b)
    a. Three or more dislocations without trauma injury in the same joint or two or more atraumatic dislocations in two different joints occurring at different times
    b. Medical confirmation of joint instability at two or more sites not related to trauma.

Criteria 3: All these prerequisites must be met:

The absence of unusual skin fragility, exclusion of other heritable and acquired connective tissue disorders including autoimmune rheumatologic conditions, and exclusion of alternative diagnoses that may also include joint hypermobility due to poor muscle tone (hypotonia) and/or connective tissue laxity.

Prolotherapy for Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders

In the image below we present a single case. This patient was diagnosed with all these symptoms and a history including 18 surgeries. We were able to assess her “ground zero” as cervical spine instability leading to compression of the vagus nerve.

In this above image we see that the patient was diagnosed with:

We are frequently asked about how Prolotherapy works for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or other disorders when there is a known collagen defect. Ross Hauser, MD discusses the various types of collagen that are involved with ligaments and other tissues in the body.

Dr. Hauser refers to this chart in the video.

The chart shows the different types of collagen:

Problems of headache and other head and neck challenges related to cervical neck hypermobility / instability in Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes

Doctors presenting in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, present a summary of Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes and the problems of understanding. In this study, not only is joint hypermobility discussed, but the problems of headache and other head and neck problems related to cervical neck hypermobility / instability. Here are their learning points:

The problem to these researchers, as they state, is shared by patients, “standard treatment is always symptomatic (just treats the symptoms) and usually unsuccessful.”(11)

An October 2017 study from university hospital researchers in Norway was published in the medical journal Disability and rehabilitation, in it the doctors made these observations:

Comment: We have a patient with a lot of health challenges. They have been told to self-manage or get treatments, which we will cover below that were in many cases inappropriate. “This may indicate one of the reasons why prognosis for these patients is poor.” In other words, the patients do not get better. The patients could get better if they knew what their disease was and how to come up with a more holistic (whole-body) treatment approach.

Physical therapy

A June 2021 study in the American journal of medical genetics. Part A. (13) comes to us from a team of Belgium researchers and physical therapists. The objective of this paper was to investigate the effect of the different physiotherapy (PT)  techniques related to the children and adult patients with hEDS. To do this the researchers compiled dates from six previously published studies.

Here are the learning points of the researchers:

Prolotherapy Treatment for hEDS

Let’s revisit the paper we cited above published in June 2016 in the medical journal Disability and rehabilitation. Let’s look at the problems of the treatment options noted in this research.

“Participants with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome reported the most helpful methods for managing acute pain were opioids, surgical interventions, splints and braces, heat therapy, nerve blocks and physical therapy, while chronic pain was treated most effectively with opioids, heat therapy, splints or braces and surgical interventions.”(8)


We believe Prolotherapy offers great hope to those with symptoms of hypermobility because it is designed to successfully treat the ligament and tendon laxity that accompanies Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, as well as strengthen the joints in the body.

If we take splints and braces, heat therapy, and physical therapy treatments at face value we find a group of treatments that seek to stabilize a painful joint (hold it together with splints and braces), bring circulation to the joint, (heat therapy), stresses movement (physical therapy) to build up strength in the joint. These are all part of the therapeutic properties of Prolotherapy injections.

Our research Prolotherapy and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders (HSD)).

Above we cited this research in the Journal of Prolotherapy in 2013. The full research can be downloaded as a PDF file – Treatment of Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, Including Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, with Hackett-Hemwall Prolotherapy.

Here are our bullet points:

Some of the rationale for using Prolotherapy for patients with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome include that it has:

Perhaps its greatest asset is the fact that this one treatment modality can handle most of the painful musculoskeletal conditions that occur in individuals with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome.

Case example of Kristle Lowell, Double Mini-Trampoline World Champion

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome causes pain when the force on the joint tissues is greater than the strength of those tissues. When the ligaments can no longer hold the adjacent bones in place, the medical condition is called joint instability. The extreme form of joint instability is joint dislocation. Kristle Lowell, the 2013 World Champion in Double Mini-Trampoline can dislocate many of her joints. (See Figure 4.) Her story is a common one heard from those suffering from EDS.

Figure 4.
Joint Hypermobility due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome

When Kristle started gymnastic training as a child, she knew she had excessive flexibility, but this also helped her excel. Her flexibility allowed her to perform certain maneuvers that the other children could not. She suffered her first serious injury in 2014, a severe ankle sprain. Afterward, the ankle would pop and click constantly, and the pain was extreme with sprinting, which is a vital component of double mini-trampoline. The sprint is what provides the momentum to do all the turns and flips during the routine. Sprinting and landing became extremely painful, enough so that the injury precluded her from competing at the 2014 World Championships. It was during this time that she was diagnosed with EDS.

Kristle received corticosteroid shots, which provided temporary relief, however, the ankle pain and instability progressed. She tried physical therapy, though it did not help. The ankle pain and clicking were constant. Like many with EDS, she lived with the fear that at any moment her ankle would sublux and possibly dislocate. Sometimes, just the simple act of getting out of bed would cause the ankle to move out of its normal location. Depression started to set in.

Kristle came to Caring Medical for an evaluation. Upon physical exam and MRI review, it was clear that she had significant ligament damage in both the front and back of her ankle. Her most significant instability was in the posterior ankle. As her physician, I was confident Prolotherapy could help her. She received her first Prolotherapy session in March of 2015. Over the course of the next weeks, she reported a tightening of her ankle to the point where it was no longer dislocating. She was able to return to training full-time. After Prolotherapy, she came in second in double mini-trampoline at the 2015 USA Gymnastics Championships, which are the national championships for trampoline/tumbling, acrobatic gymnastics, and rhythmic gymnastics. She qualified for the U.S. World Championships Team for the 2015 World Championships in Odense, Denmark. After the national competition, she came in for one more Prolotherapy treatment to help tighten her ankle ligaments so they could withstand the rigor of training for the World Championships.

Since receiving Prolotherapy, Kristle continues to receive both National and International competitions including placing first in the 2017 Winter Classic in Battle Creek, Michigan and first in the 2016 USA Gymnastic Championships in Providence, Rhode Island.

Rebecca the dancer’s story


If you have questions about Prolotherapy for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome You can get help and information from our Caring Medical staff

1 Sulli A, Talarico R, Scirè CA, Avcin T, Castori M, Ferraris A, Frank C, Grunert J, Paolino S, Bombardieri S, Schneider M. Ehlers-Danlos syndromes: state of the art on clinical practice guidelines. RMD open. 2018 Oct 1;4(Suppl 1):e000790. [Google Scholar]
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