Bendy, Flexible and Slightly Floppy? All About Joint Hypermobility
By Rebecca Deluca, Physiotherapist
Do you have loose joints?
Do they ever feel like they are going to “pop out” of place? Or are you flexible in some directions of movement and stiff in others?
You may be hypermobile and you may be experiencing some of the many other symptoms that go hand in hand with having mobile joints.
Hypermobility, or otherwise known as laxity, double-jointedness, loose-limbed or joint instability occurs in up to 25% of the population. In most cases, hypermobile joints remain symptom-free, however, it can sometimes cause other symptoms.
These can include:
- Joint dislocations
- Joint and muscle pain
- Chronic pain and fibromyalgia
- Anxiety and other mental health implications
- Gut and digestive system disorders (because the muscles in your digestive system can weaken)
- In a small percentage of cases, joint hypermobility is just a symptom of a much larger syndrome, such as Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome and Marfan’s Syndrome, just to name a couple.
Generalised joint hypermobility is believed to run in families. Often people can relate to other family members being flexible too. This may be due to the shape of the bones and joints, the tone of the muscles and tendons, as well as the laxity in ligaments (due to weakness in collagen). It often occurs more frequently in children, with girls more at risk than boys. It can also occur during pregnancy due to changes in hormone levels.
Joint hypermobility is often more common among dance and gymnastic populations, as these children and young adults are more likely to be “good” at their chosen sport due to the desired flexibility.
In some cases, these people should be screened properly to prevent injuries and long-term pain and disabilities associated with constantly putting an extreme end of range force on their joints.
If and when hypermobile joints become painful, such as during exercise or even in times of stress (due to increased tension), you may need to seek out help and support. Often pain may start in the form of headaches or neck pain, as well as in your jaw. Other common areas for pain associated with hypermobility include the hips, knees, and ankles, as well as recurrent sprains and strains.
It is good to get on top of any pain now before it becomes more chronic. This is where your Physiotherapist can help.
Your Physiotherapist may use a combination of techniques to help relieve any associated pain in your joints and muscles. This may include dry needling, joint mobilisation, and massage. It is often advised NOT to do any sustained stretching, such as yoga, as this will put more strain on the joints. Try to use self-massage with a foam roller or massage ball to relieve tension instead of stretching.
Low-impact strength training, such as Clinical Pilates is advised to build up strength and control in the muscles around your joints, particularly in the core and pelvic stabilisers.
Being stronger around your joints and spine will prevent future sprains, strains, and unwanted muscular tension.
Joints with excessive mobility often lack proprioception, which is your body’s awareness of where your joints are and what they are doing. This needs to be trained by doing specific exercises from your Physiotherapist, such as balance and “joint-sense” training.
Other factors that help with hypermobility include having an active lifestyle, maintaining a healthy weight range, good sleep patterns and wearing supportive footwear.
And Finally –
If any of these signs and symptoms above sound familiar to you, please get in touch with your Physiotherapist today for a thorough assessment and diagnosis. Making small changes to your routine now may just help you prevent any unwanted symptoms in the future!
To get treatment and advice on Hypermobility or make a physiotherapy appointment, call us on (08) 6389 2947 or click here to book online.