Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a spectrum disorder that affects 1 in 5000 people worldwide. Whilst that figure may make it seem uncommon, that checks out at roughly 1.4m people. That's a lot! The problem with statistics such as '1 in 5000' is that sufferers seemingly represent an insignificant proportion of the population, but that couldn't be further from the truth.
There are 13 different sub-types of EDS, with Hypermobile Ehler's-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) the most prevalent. To generalise, EDS is a hereditary condition that affect the structure of the patients' connective tissue. This can result in hyper-mobile joints, stretchy skin (which can makes patients appear to be way younger than they are late into their 50s and 60s), and a high propensity for bruising.
hEDS, however, also brings with it fatigue, joint pain, joint instability (leading to more pain through increased likelihood of injury), and an array of digestive problems and other issues with the internal organs. I had never heard of it before until my girlfriend was diagnosed with hEDS - given the sheer volume of symptoms associated with EDS, this was surprising to me; why were we not doing more to look for solutions to the problem?
It turns out there are multiple organisations dedicated to funding research for EDS, such as the Ehler's Danlos Society, and Ehler's-Danlos Support UK, and they do a great job. There is also a suggestion that the actual propensity for EDS in the general population could be much higher as most doctors do a poor job of diagnosing it and usually conflate its symptoms with other issues, such as endometriosis or IBS.
When I found out my girlfriend had EDS, she told me she was advised by her first physiotherapist to not lift weights due to the unstable nature of her joints. As a personal trainer myself, I quickly rubbished this suggestion and told Jess that she needed to get stronger in those ranges of motion to reduce her pain scores.
After some months of resistance training and yoga, she had notably decreased her day-to-day pain levels. Most days throughout the week, however, she would suffer with flare ups - sometimes, her trapezius muscles would stiffen up randomly to the point of being unable to turn her head. On other days, stomach pain and extreme joint pain. That's when we introduced CBD into her routine. Jess' symptoms are pretty heavy, so she takes about 120mg of CBD per day.
Whilst it doesn't completely rid her of pain, it takes the edge off and allows her to partake in tasks she couldn't have an hour previous to consumption. In addition, we use a CBD balm (more specifically, Shake Organics 1200mg CBD Balm) to treat areas of localised inflammation or pain. Given there is no cure for EDS, the best we can do at the moment is manage her symptoms, which are largely rooted in inflammation - given the anti-inflammatory mechanism CBD induces in the body, it was a no brainer to go down this path.
Most importantly, however, was that we were able to reduce Jess' usage on opioids and strong NSAIDs by introducing CBD oil. She still takes painkillers, but at a much lower clip than she used to.
In many cases, patients become dependant on opiates (such as codeine) as they are under the false pretence that any doctor-prescribed medication is safe and without risk. With NHS waiting times at all time highs, I would also imagine that GPs will have a higher inclination to continually prescribe strong pain medication as short-sightedness is preferred in the mean time to alleviate delays.
As such, establishing a go-to, natural alternative therapy such as CBD will be crucial in limiting opioid addiction in EDS sufferers in the future.
Conclusively, CBD is a proven anti-inflammatory agent, and whilst we can't make medical claims about CBD just yet here in the UK, there is a mountain of anecdotal evidence in support of it as a pain management tool.