Do you often feel tight and stiff and find it difficult to stretch out sore joints? Are you extra flexible and able to move your joints into unusual positions? Have you ever been described as ‘double jointed’? You may be hypermobile.
What is hypermobility?
Generalised joint hypermobility describes a condition where a number of joints in the body have extra range of movement. It can also be described as joint or ligamentous laxity, as the joints affected have extra laxity or ‘stretch’ in their ligaments, creating more range of motion.
People with generalised joint hypermobility may be described as flexible and may be able to move their joints and bodies into unusual positions. This extra range of motion can be an advantage for sports such as ballet and gymnastics.
Who does it affect?
There is a higher incidence of joint hypermobility in young children (particularly females) and in most cases it does not cause problems. In a small percentage of people however, joint hypermobility can be symptomatic, and is thought to be hereditary. It is often not picked up until later in life although symptoms may be present in childhood or adolescence. In some cases, hypermobility is caused by genetic conditions that effect collagen such as Ehler’s Danlos syndrome or Marfan Syndrome.
Signs and symptoms may include:
- Achey, tired joints
- Recurrent joint sprains, ligament or tendon injuries (commonly ankles, knees and/or shoulders)
- Poor spatial awareness or coordination than can lead to injury
- Partial dislocation (Joint subluxation) or full dislocation of joints
- Fatigue and restlessness – either specific joint or muscle fatigue, or general fatigue due to increased effort to perform activities or sit/stand for long periods
- Tight and sore muscles that are difficult to stretch
- Digestive problems
- Stretchy, sensitive skin
How can physiotherapy help?
The strength and stability of joints can be compromised by weakness or deficiencies in muscles, tendons, ligaments and the joint capsule. In hypermobile joints these muscles have to work a little harder to support the extra range of motion, so it is important for people with generalised joint hypermobility to be physically active to support their joint health.
A physiotherapist will help with:
- Assessment of the level of hypermobility
- Determine if a referral for other medical advice is necessary
- Prescription of specific exercises to strengthen the muscles that support hypermobile joints
- Education and advice around sports or physical activity that are appropriate and will be comfortable and safe for hypermobile joints
- Pain management advice and assistance
- Massage or manual therapy to assist with any associated joint stiffness
If yourself or someone you know is displaying symptoms of generalised joint hypermobility, call us on 03 6237 0045 to book a Free Initial Assessment!
Written by Jess Osborn (MPhysio, BHlthSc, APAM)