Joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS) and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) are both heritable disorders of connective tissue (HDCT) characterized by joint laxity and hypermobility. The conditions are both genetic disorders of collagen synthesis, where the adverse effects of tissue laxity and fragility can give rise to clinical consequences that resonate far beyond the confines of the musculoskeletal system. Both conditions have as their hallmark generalized hypermobility which can affect almost every bodily system. The hypermobility can be documented by the Brighton criteria which involves the objective measurement of the hyperextensibility of various joints. While the major presenting complaint of JHS and EDS is arthralgia in multiple joints, if the hypermobility is left unchecked, joint dislocations and degeneration may prevail.
While traditional medical treatments including education and lifestyle advice, behavior modification, physiotherapy, taping and bracing, exercise prescription, functional rehabilitation and pain medications offer some symptomatic control, they do little in regard to curbing the progressive debilitating nature of the diseases. The excessive joint mobility with its subsequent joint degeneration and multiple joint dislocations, can then lead the individual to seek out surgical intervention, which has suboptimal results in the hypermobile patient population versus the normal population. As such, some patients with JHS and EHS are seeking alternative treatments for their pain, including Prolotherapy.
Prolotherapy offers great hope for those with symptoms from generalized hypermobility because it is designed to successfully treat the ligament and tissue laxity that accompanies JHS and EDS. Prolotherapy works by initiating a brief inflammatory response, which causes a reparative cascade to generate new collagen and extra cellular matrix giving connective their strength and ability to handle strain and force. Prolotherapy has a long history of success treating ligament injuries, including patients with joint hypermobility. Studies on Prolotherapy have shown that it eliminates chronic pain even in those patients who have been told by their medical doctor(s) that surgery was the only treatment option for their pain.
Some of the rationale for using Prolotherapy for patients with EDS and JHS include that it has a high safety record, is comprehensive (all or most joints can be treated at each visit), is an outpatient procedure, is cost effective (compared to surgery), pain relief is often quick, and it provides joint stabilization. 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 EDS and JHS.
Prolotherapy could contribute to the treatment of hypermobility disorders also by preventing the development of precocious osteoarthritis. It has long been known that individuals with JHS and EDS suffer with premature osteoarthritis in various joints and the amount of degeneration correlates with the extent of the individuals hypermobility. The combination of extreme hypermobility and repeated injury is presumed to be what leads to the early osteoarthritis. This is most likely the reason that the hypermobility type of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is the most debilitating form with respect to musculoskeletal function.
While the primary author has twenty years experience treating JHS and EDS musculoskeletal symptoms with Prolotherapy, future studies will need to be conducted to best document the exact role Prolotherapy has in the treatment of the musculoskeletal symptoms and hypermobility of JHS and EDS and if it can prevent future joint degeneration in these individuals.