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How sports therapy can help with EDS and other musculoskeletal disorders

Musculoskeletal system

Sports therapists do not just treat sports people - we are musculoskeletal specialists.

We specialise in treating muscles, joints, bones, ligaments and tendons.

If you have a musculoskeletal problem, whether it's from a medical condition or an injury, sports or otherwise, our sports therapists can help.

Our therapist, Nicole Gipps, has first-hand knowledge of how sports therapy can help someone with a medical condition, having been diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) when she was 14.

Nicole kindly answered our questions about EDS and how sports therapy can help...

Nicole Gipps

What is EDS?

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a set of genetic connective tissue disorders. There are currently 13 different sub-types with the most common being the hypermobile type (HEDS). EDS symptoms include joint hypermobility, chronic fatigue, chronic pain,increased scarring and skin fragility.

When were you diagnosed and how?

I was diagnosed at the age of 14 after a shoulder dislocation while dancing. I had had previous wrist fractures and ankle ligament injuries, but it was just put down to being clumsy as a child. Then when I went to A&E after this dislocation a locum doctor read back on all the notes and said ‘I know what you have’. I then had it confirmed by a rheumatologist.

What injuries have you had and what types of treatment?

I have had a range of joint injuries, including many dislocations and ligament injuries. I have also suffered nerve injuries as well. I have undergone three major surgeries: one to pin my shoulder, one to clear out the debris in my knee from a major injury I had and one to move a nerve in my elbow. Because of the EDS, I heal slowly and poorly so these surgeries take a long time to recover from. I have had many physiotherapists and sports therapists look at my EDS and injuries. As a sports therapist, I find treating myself a lot easier now, as I know my body and I know my condition.

Nicole Gipp's leg operation

What have you learnt from your condition?

I have learnt to listen to my body, as it will warn me when I’m doing too much or not enough. I have also learnt that exercise, although it seems counter-intuitive, is great for my body. I have learnt to control my pain levels, through exercises, rather than relying on painkillers.

Do you know any other people suffering from EDS?

I am a member of The Ehlers-Danlos Society where they have get-togethers for people with EDS and their families. The condition is hereditary but no one in my family has been formally diagnosed other than me.

How can sports therapy help those with EDS?

Sports therapists have great knowledge of the anatomy of the human body and how it works - we are musculoskeletal specialists. We specialise in treating musculoskeletal disorders, ie injuries or pain in the joints, ligaments, muscles, nerves, tendons and bones. We can create and adapt injury rehabilitation programmes to suit the needs of clients with EDS and other medical conditions. On a personal level, living with EDS and being a sports therapist, I have a passion to help people like me achieve what they want.

Do you have any final wise words or advice?

After sustaining a major knee injury in a dance competition, at age 17, I was told by a specialist orthopaedic consultant that I would never be able to dance again. Two years later and I was dancing at the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony. I worked extremely hard with a sports therapist to build up my leg strength and I achieved a dream many would have not have believed possible. My advice would be to never give up and to find the best support possible. Talking to a sports therapist is a great place to start!

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