My morning check-in with my body guides my exercises

How I scan myself daily for issues in my back, shoulder, hips, and feet

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

by Karen Del Vecchio |

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Each morning after I wake up, I take stock of how I feel. Is my back stiff? Does it hurt? How about my shoulder? Did I sleep wrong and aggravate it? How about my plantar fasciitis? Does my hip feel stuck or out of place?

While I do this check-in each morning without thinking about it, the other day I began to wonder: Is this scan how “normal” people begin each day, or is it what I do because of my Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS)?

Regardless, the following are the body parts I evaluate first thing in the morning because they’re most affected by my sleep posture. From there, I make adjustments to help with any problems I detect.

Defrosting a frozen back

It should come as no surprise that my back can stiffen overnight since it’s one of the body parts most vulnerable to awkward sleeping positions. I’ve seen some progress, though. Over the past few months, I’ve taken to ignoring the “Don’t sleep on a heating pad advice, seeing it more as a suggestion than a rule.

When I do use the pad, I put it on the lowest warm setting with a two-hour auto-shut-off. After accidentally falling asleep on it so many times while on the couch, I’ve realized I usually wake up less stiff. While a heating pad is not my favorite tool, given the summer heat here in Virginia, I still try to use it a few nights a week to keep my back limber.

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Shaking off shoulder pain

If I accidentally roll over and sleep on my side, sometimes I’ll wake up with sharp shoulder pain. When that happens, I’ve learned to do some gentle windmills with my arms before I even get out of bed to help shake off the stiffness as much as possible. Then I stretch my trapezius muscles and generally try to loosen up a bit before I get fully up and moving.

A soft landing for my feet

My plantar fasciitis is my nemesis, and some mornings it’s worse than others.

Before I even put my feet on the ground, I make circles with my ankles, stretch my toes up, and then point them down several times. And I’ve learned the hard way, more than once, not to step barefoot onto the floor. I always leave a pair of house sandals next to my bed to put on as soon as I’m up, as the hard floor and lack of support without shoes is too painful until I get moving.

Settling my hip into place

Once I’m up, the next thing I tend to notice is my hip. Sometimes my right hip feels sticky, like it’s still in place but sitting up against one edge of the socket and pinching. I usually feel that when I lean over to feed my cats their breakfast.

If the hip is acting up, I usually go back to my bed and take a seat so I can do some range of motion exercises with my legs, hoping my hip will settle back where it should be. Sometimes it works and other times it doesn’t, but after that I’m up and on my way to feed the dogs before I go outside to take care of the horses on the small farm where I live.

After working through my initial morning stiffness, the best thing I can do, pretty much however I feel, is to just get going. The stiffer I am, the more moving helps me.

That’s not true for everyone, but over the years I’ve found that the worst thing I can do with EDS is sit still, unless I have an injury that needs to heal. After my body scan each morning and doing what I can do to help myself along, my best practice is to push through and start my daily routine.

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.


Teresa avatar


This is totally me every day. I am 64 now and was not “officially” diagnosed until I was 60. I did however, research on my own and found Ehler Danlos syndrome and knew that it was me. When I asked the doctors about it, they had no clue what I was talking about and said no I did not have that. I knew better. Of course, now with all of the years past, I have done severe damage without realizing that each time I listened to a doctor and had a surgery I was adding to my grief and my pain. I’m losing my vision now thanks to another doctor that lied. I do not trust any doctor now unfortunately. And you are so correct….moving is better, but moving too much causes severe pain later. So it’s a very hard life trying to do the basics without overdoing it. A sneeze can throw a rib or your back out. Coughing as we know, can throw your ribs and your back out. Stepping slightly to one side can throw both hips out. Being a very competitive and outdoor person, this has caused severe depression as well Because I know what’s going to happen the next few days or weeks later if I do yardwork. But I love being outside and working in the yard.. I think the worst part about it is having to constantly explain and defend yourself to others who expect you to do what you did yesterday or last week or last year . They will never understand that it’s hard to plan the next day, the next week, next month, and God forbid they want you to plan something for the following year. I feel sorry for anyone who has this horrible affliction. But we look just fine, right? Smh.

Wendy Thompson avatar

Wendy Thompson

Wow! I'm so sorry if this sounds selfish but it's so nice to read I'm not the only one ❤️

Karen Del Vecchio avatar

Karen Del Vecchio

It absolutely doesn't! One of my favorite things about writing here is how much it's let both me and others realize that we're not alone in what we manage on a daily basis!

Ann Harris avatar

Ann Harris

Hello Karen. I love your newsletter because I have similar symptoms as you and it is amazing really how much we are alike. I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis but when my feet started hurting so bad I went to an orthopedist who specializes in feet and ankles. My first surgery with him gave the diagnosis of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. The ligaments in my feet had mulled away. He replaced them with cadavers ligaments and he told me I had no evidence of RA but I have Hyper Mobility ED. Sure enough I have always been hyper mobile. When I was young they called it double jointed. I have had multiple surgeries on both feet , replacement surgery on bilateral knees, right shoulder and bilateral hands.
I love in Charleston WV and I wonder where you live on VA. I have a daughter and her family in Charlottesville and many relatives in VA. I look forward to your newsletter every week. Ann Harris.

Megan avatar


Hi Karen, Thankyou for sharing sharing your life here :)
I appreciated your article today about your body scan ritual;) I so get it !
It’s a double edged sword having hEDS . On one hand ,I’m grateful for the mindfulness practice that I need to have living in my body but on the other hand ,I sometimes wish I could cut loose and dance with abandon or run again….. There is a constant shift of perspective that I am learning and Life is teaching me to accept it and myself moment by moment. Not Easy , but worth it .

Michelle avatar


It sounds like you and I have very similar mornings! Thanks for all of your posts; it’s nice to know there are others out there who know what we deal with o n a daily basis.

Sarah Sherwood avatar

Sarah Sherwood

A “soft opening” to my day ~ doing many of the exact things you do ~ has become essential as I age. Thank you for sharing!

Deborah avatar


I have not been diagnosed yet. But, my daughter thinks that me and my 2 girls have Ehlers Danlos. I am 65 yrs old and have been suffering all my life. I will be going to the doctor's this week and ask her. I just want answers to why I have what I have! Life is not fine!


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