As physiotherapists we spend ALOT of time working with people who have stiff joints, tight muscles, reduced movement….. All of these things present as a lack of mobility, which is, in most cases, resulting in pain (hence why they are sitting in my waiting room).
BUT sometimes we forget about the other side of the coin….. The hypermobile ones, those that have TOO much movement, their joints have more range than required, their muscles are too flexible.
This is actually a problem that exists far more commonly than one may think, often it is asymptomatic & people won’t even be aware that their body is a little more like an elastic band than their best friends, BUT in some cases joint hypermobility syndrome can cause pain.
Joint hypermobility is usually inherited; if your mum is super super flexible, chances you will be too. There is nothing you can do to change it or prevent it, unfortunately its due to a gene representation in the connective tissue (the glue that holds our bodies together) causing it to become more pliable& more stretchy allowing for excessive movement at certain joints.
People with hypermobile joints have a higher incidence of dislocation and sprains of involved joints. The hypermobility tends to decrease with age as we naturally become less flexible.
When it comes to being hypermobility some people just live with it, other people may suffer from certain related medical conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), Marfan Syndrome and Osteogenesis Imperfecta BUT the purpose of this blog isn’t to overload you with information related to these issues but rather to give you a little insight into a more common presentation which is ‘hypermobility syndrome’ or HMS and when you may need to seek a little professional advice.
Do you have HMS?
There is a great little series of tests that you can do right no on your living room floor. Give yourself a score of 1 for each of the following that you CAN DO.
- Touch the floor with your palms flat without bending your knees
- Can you bend your left elbow back past straight
- The same for your right elbow
- When lying flat on floor with your left leg straight out in front of you can you lift your left heel off the floor approx 1-2 inches without lifting your knee or upper leg
- The same for your right leg
- Can you bend your left thumb under so that it touches your forearm
- The same for your right thumb
- Can you bend your left little finger back past 90 degrees
- The same for your left little finger
For each one you are able to achieve give yourself a point.
What was your score out of 9? If you were able to do any of the above you have are classed as hypermobile BUT you don’t necessarily have HMS.
In a clinical setting your score along with the prevalence of certain symptoms would categories you into either minor or major hypermobility syndrome. Some symptoms include joint pain, history of subluxation or dislocation of joints, being particularly tall & slim.
If your hypermobility is causing you joint pain make an appointment with a sports physiotherapist. They will be able to assess you and answer all your questions about what you can, can’t, should and shouldn’t be doing. There are exercises that can be done to help with the pain and also allow you to partake in all the activities you wish to. It’s also nice to be educated about the risks that certain sports may present to you as a ‘hypermobile’ individual; for example if you are desperate to play high intensity collision sports such as rugby you should be aware that the risk of you dislocating your shoulder is slightly higher than your team mates who are not hypermobile.
So you have HMS? DON’T PANIC. This doesn’t mean you need to start doing things differently. Yes you can exercise, in fact it’s recommended that you do; yes you can play sport (some may be advisable to avoid); yes you can go trampolining; yes you can ski; yes you can LIVE a normal life