Identifying the source of my pain helps me resolve compensations

Finding the root cause of my pain flares is key to getting them under control

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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Sometimes I’m baffled by my body’s connections and the way it compensates for issues related to my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Recently, I’ve been experiencing a sharp pain in the muscles along the front and sides of the bottom of my rib cage. I couldn’t think of anything I’d done to cause that kind of discomfort, and no amount of heat, gentle stretching, or rubbing seemed to make any difference.

After several weeks, I started to feel what I can only describe as an echo in the front of my hip whenever I felt the pain in my ribs. Could they be connected? It didn’t seem logical, as there’s no direct link that I’m aware of, but I felt like I had nothing to lose, so I started focusing my efforts on my hip.

It turned out that my hip was tight and pulling on my back, which was in turn pulling on my rib cage and back down to my hip, creating a tight, angry triangle. It had taken me weeks to figure it out because the pain in my ribs was “shouting” the loudest, so I didn’t “hear” the others until I started searching for them. Then I could feel them.

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The pieces fall into place

Once I realized my hip was the silent cause of this unusual pain, another piece of the puzzle fell into place. I’ve been having a resurgence of plantar fasciitis pain in my right foot and heel, and again, I couldn’t think of any reason why it’d become aggravated. With my hip identified as the culprit, I realized what was happening. When my hip is tight, I don’t walk correctly. If it’s significant, I’ll notice, but if there’s only slight tightness, I might not. But my body sure does!

That small change in my gait, subtle enough that I didn’t even recognize it, was causing uneven motion down my leg. In turn, that motion was making some muscles work harder than they’re intended to, and that caused the pain flare in my foot. Sheesh!

Now that I understand what’s happening, I’ve been able to work on the areas causing my compensatory pain. When I’m only treating symptoms and not getting to the root of the problem, I can only make so much progress. But now that I know what to work on, I can focus my efforts more effectively.  Otherwise, it can feel like playing whack-a-mole.

Heat, some pain meds, and trying not to overstress my hip have definitely helped. I still don’t know what caused my hip to flare up in the first place, but at least I can work on calming it down.

So often I don’t understand the connections between my muscles, or what sets an area off. The cascade can happen so quickly and subtly that I don’t always realize how everything is intertwined, but over the years I’ve learned that if I’m having pain flares in multiple places, there’s almost always something tying them together. It can take many tries to identify what’s the root cause and what’s the compensation, but in doing so, I’m able to start getting my pain under control.

Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.


Constance avatar


My Hip hurting has be hurting in the mornings, but I use Ice packs and helps. Whac a Mile, you are right. EDS diagnosis in 2015.

Sam Newton avatar

Sam Newton

First, I’ve never had someone else describe my day to day existence before. It was enough to make me cry (literally). My Orthopedist brought it up when I went in a few months ago for a hamstring tear after going over my chart; she performed the flexibility tests and we discussed my family history and although I had looked into EDS a while back it had not really clicked as a possibility. After that visit I performed a “deep dive” and Holy crap! I have (in all likelihood) hEDS. I have been plagued with joint injuries throughout my life and although I’ve never been easy on myself I’ve always wondered why my friends that do the same things I do never had these issues. I just wanted to thank you for this article, knowing I’m not alone in this is immensely comforting.

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

Karen Del Vecchio

Hi Sam. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, and I'm so glad you stumbled up on my column! I agree, it's incredibly reassuring to hear from others who validate our experiences. It's such a comfort to remember that we're not alone and that there are plenty of other people out there who understand!

Maria avatar


This makes so much sense to me. I recently figured out why I developed bone-on-bone osteoarthritis in my left hip. It was a mystery to me why I often feel subluxing in both hips, but only my left hip ultimately became worn down and that leg became noticeably shorter. I happen to notice the soles of various pairs of soft-soled slippers (which I wear constantly, as I'm retired and don't leave the house that much). The left soles had huge holes in the heel and across the ball, whereas the right soles had no holes. It was then that I realized that the severe bunion I've been trying to deny and then ignore for over 15 years has caused me to shift all my weight to the left leg. (I've told myself, over the years, that this little bunion is nothing compared to the pains in my knees, hips, and shoulders. On my journey to an EDS diagnosis, it never even occurred to me to complain about the bunion to an MD. Bunions were no mystery; lots of people get them . and I knew I inherited mine from my dad.) As a result, I have balance problems from trying to walk on a big toe that is permanently crossed with my second toe, and I am now a candidate for hip replacement. The lesson I extract from this is to pay attention to my whole body, not just one or two areas of major pain, look for cause and effect relationships throughout my body, and stop worrying so much about being a "high maintenance patient and give the doctor the whole picture!


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