Have you ever seen a gymnast or acrobat demonstrate such flexibility that it makes you feel a little queasy? Or are you one of those people whose party trick is to bend more than normal?! In this article, our hypermobility specialist physiotherapist, Katie McLernon goes through the condition and how physiotherapy can be used to prevent pain and injury.
What is Hypermobility?
Double jointed is often used to describe people who are extra flexible and can do things like bend their thumb back to their wrist or make their shoulders click. The medical term for this is hypermobility, but can also be referred to as joint laxity, and it refers to people who have more range of movement available at their joints than most. Hypermobility can be caused by a number of factors but most commonly, it is because the ligaments, that are responsible for holding the bones of the body together, are more elastic than most people’s.
How do I know if I am hypermobile?
You can do a quick test now to see if you are classed as hypermobile. It’s called the Beighton Score and consists of 9 movements that you score a point for if you can do that movement. You would be considered hypermobile if you score 4 or more. Follow the steps below to see if you are hypermobile.
So you scored 4 or more points? What now?
About 10% of the population are hypermobile but most of these people go through life without any problems at all. However, a small percentage of people do experience some symptoms related to their lax joints. Most of these symptoms are musculoskeletal (affecting muscle and bone), and therefore physios are geared up perfectly to treat you and advise you on long term management of these. Below is a list of some of the most common symptoms and how we can help you to overcome these.
Muscle aches and pain
-Evidence shows that strengthening the muscles around a joint can help with decreasing the pain. This is because, the muscles in somebody with a lot of extra movement in their joints, have to work extra hard to stabilize that joint and control it throughout the whole range of movement available.
- Again, due to having a greater range of movement to have to control, the muscles of hypermobile people are working much harder and so these patients can get tired out much quicker, sometimes just from walking a short distance. Strengthening will help this, as will pacing yourself.
Muscle and joint stiffness- particularly a couple of days after exercise
- Physio can help to assess for tight muscles and show you how to stretch them. Muscle stiffness is often overlooked in hypermobile people because the primary problem at the joints is the opposite problem.
Poor balance and body awareness
- Loose ligaments and a large available range of movement to move joints in both contribute to instability in the hypermobile person. However, having a better body awareness and therefore better balance, can be retrained through various ways. A specific type of Pilates can help with improving the order in which muscles work in, which in turn improves the quality of movement patterns and therefore improves balance. This Pilates is offered at Radiance PhysioFit and the great thing is, is that the difference in quality of movement is usually apparent in just one session!
Dislocations of joints and more injuries than the average person
- Due to lax, stretchy ligaments, combined with a poor body awareness and poor balance, this group of people are more prone to their joints moving out of place and other boney, muscular or ligamentous injuries. Physio can help treat these injuries but of course, prevention is better than cure, so we’d rather help gear you up to be fit and well so you don’t suffer an injury in the first place!
So there you have it, being “double jointed”, although not serious as a diagnosis, can seriously impact your quality of life. It can cause some other symptoms that haven’t been discussed in this article to do with other body systems that, although physios don’t treat, we can advise you if they might be related to hypermobility.
The good news is, there are things that can be done for you so if you think you may be hypermobile and it is causing you problems, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 68221618 today.