Many of us wish we were more flexible. For some of us, however, having “floppy joints” just comes naturally. While being extra ‘bendy’ might be great in a yoga class this “hypermobility” comes with its own complications.
There are different degrees of hypermobility. In some people, it’s quite subtle, and with others it’s extreme! Our ligaments and tendons are designed to hold our joints in their optimal position and convey a standard range of movement.
What Is Hypermobility?
So, what does it mean to be hypermobile? Hypermobility describes excessive flexibility or range of movement in one or more joints. Interestingly, many hypermobile people don’t exhibit problems. In fact, many leading Australian dancers and gymnasts are hypermobile.
However, in others, this range of excessive movement is linked to musculoskeletal problems including chronic joint pain and a predisposition to recurrent injuries.
How Is Hypermobility Diagnosed?
A standard test for hypermobility is the “Beighton Score”. Simple tests can identify if you have hypermobility such as “bending your thumb back to touch your forearm” and ‘touching your hands flat on the floor with legs straight”.
Another diagnostic test, the Brighton Criteria, assesses other features connected to hypermobility, such as chronic joint pain for longer than 3 months and increased skin stretchiness.
How Genetics Plays A Part
Many people exhibiting hypermobility have family members who are ‘flexible.’ The condition commonly runs in families although joint hypermobility occurs more frequently amongst women than men.
Hypermobility And Joint Pain
People with joint hypermobility can be predisposed to joint subluxations where the joint slips slightly out of alignment, soft tissue injuries, or even full dislocations. Spinal consultants also see greater susceptibility to typical sprains and strains resulting in sporting-related injuries.
People exhibiting joint hypermobility may also experience fatigue, muscle pain and recurring pain in multiple joints. These symptoms comprise classical “Joint Hypermobility Syndrome”
Hypermobility And Anxiety
Adolescents and children with joint hypermobility can also have increased instances of panic attacks, anxiety and depression. This can be addressed with a combination of psychological and physiotherapy-based treatments.
Hypermobility And Gastrointestinal And Urinary Issues
A small number of adolescents and children displaying hypermobility report instances of gastro-oesophageal reflux, chronic constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic abdominal pain and urinary tract symptoms.
This is because the gut mainly comprises connective tissue, and researchers believe gastrointestinal and urinary issues surface due to the patient’s connective tissue being more flexible. This makes physical digestion more difficult. Gut problems appear to improve with enhanced hydration, a high fibre whole food diet and physical activity.
How Can A Physiotherapy Help
The Brisbane Spine Clinic in Eight Mile Plains can assess which joints are hypermobile and can often identify if this is impacting other joint structures. These areas can be released or mobilised via manual therapy.
Under your physiotherapist’s guidance, an appropriate exercise program is also prescribed. In many cases, certain exercises can be successful in countering joint pain and reducing the instances of recurring injuries. Low impact core stability exercises such as Clinical Pilates can also be helpful for many hypermobile patients via improved:
- posture which reduces joint stress
- breathing techniques which help with relaxation and the pain associated with spasms in muscles working overtime to stabilise ‘floppy joints’
- body awareness and coordination, helping to reduce the risk of recurring injuries
- endurance and muscle strength to provide an enhanced level of support for hypermobile joints.
If you suspect you are hypermobile, come in and see us at The Brisbane Spine Clinic for helpful advice and exercises.
*Please note, content within this article is for educational purposes only and treatment and advice mentioned may not be suited for everyone. Please consult a team member at the Brisbane Spine Clinic or your General Practitioner for specific advice.