Hypermobility: Are you Hypermobile?

By Isabella Clark Sydney CBD Osteopath

What is joint hyper mobility? 

Joint hypermobility simply means that you have more flexibility in some of, or all of your joints than the normal person. It is more common in young girls/ women and is generally thought of as being genetic. 

Hypermobility itself isn’t a medical condition and many people don’t realise they are hypermobile if it doesn’t cause any problems. In some scenarios it can be advantageous, or example, yoga or dance. 

However, some people with hypermobile joints may have symptoms such as joint or muscle pain and may find that their joints are prone to injury or even dislocation. If you do have symptoms then you may have joint hypermobility syndrome – also referred to as benign joint hypermobility syndrome (BJHS).

Symptoms of hyper mobility:

Although hypermobility itself isn’t a medical condition, some people with hypermobile joints may be more likely to have aches and pains when doing everyday tasks. Symptoms of joint hypermobility syndrome include:

1 . Muscle strain or pain -(especially after hard physical work or exercise)

Your muscles have to work harder if your joints are very supple and this can lead to muscle strain and a general feeling of fatigue. In effect, an ‘overuse’ injury develops in the muscles around the joint (though the pain may seem to come from the joint itself).

2 . Joint Stiffness

If a joint feels stiff or tense this may be caused by fluid collecting inside the joint. This is probably because your body is trying to repair the small amounts of damage that are caused if a muscle or joint is over-stretched. Your pain will often feel worse as the day goes on and improve at night with rest.

3 . Foot and ankle pain

You may easily twist and strain at the ankles, and have a flat arch to your foot that can lead to foot pain, particularly after standing for a long time.

4 . Neck pain and backache

This can be a problem if your spine is particularly supple and the muscles around your spine aren’t working to support it correctly. 

5 . Injured or dislocated joints

Hypermobile joints are more likely than normal joints to get injured if they’re overstretched. Sometimes the joint can dislocate – this is most common in the shoulder or the kneecap. Sometimes the soft tissues in and around joints (cartilage, tendons, ligaments) can tear.

6 . Poor co-ordination and proprioception

How is it diagnosed? 

Your Osteopath will ask you lots of questions about current pain, as well as any previous injuries/ strains/ sprains or dislocations. The Beighton score is then used to measure your flexibility using a standard set of movements at the thumb/wrist, fifth finger, elbows, lower back, and knees. You are scored out of 9. 

How can we treat and manage it? 

Joint hypermobility itself isn’t something that can be ‘cured’ or changed. It’s just the way your body is built. However, where it causes symptoms, these can often be controlled by a combination of manual therapy to relieve pain, controlling the intensity of your activity, and ensuring the correct strengthening protocol are in place.

In most cases you can ease your symptoms by doing gentle exercises to strengthen and condition the muscles around the hypermobile joints. The important thing is to do these strengthening exercises often and regularly but not to overdo them, and to do low impact exercise such as cycling or swimming,  and using only small weights, if any.