WHAT IS HYPERMOBILITY?

Hypermobility is when a person’s joints have an unusualy wide range of movement It is also sometimes referred to as being ‘double-jointed’. This extreme flexibility can be beneficial, however, for some people, joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS) causes a number of unpleasant symptoms.

SYMPTOMS

There are a variety of symptoms associated with JHS and these will vary between individuals:
Pain and stiffness in the joints and muscles
Back and neck pain
Joints that dislocate easily
Recurrent injuries, such as sprains and tendon tears
Fatigue
Digestive problems
Increased risk of developing osteoarthritis

CAUSES

JHS is often hereditary. One of the main causes is believed to be the genetic structure of the collagen which is found in skin and ligaments. If this is weaker than it should be, ligaments can be loose and stretchy, resulting in joints extending further than usual. Other less common causes include the shape of the ends of bones, muscle tone and the sense of joint movements, known as proprioception. If you are unaware of the position of your joints, you may be unable to sense when they are being overstretched.

Hypermobility is thought to be very common with some estimates suggesting as many as one in every five people have hypermobile joints. It is most common amongst children and young people, and in some cases the joints become stiffer with age and therefore range of movement becomes normal. For others, however, the symptoms of JHS can continue into adult life.

DIAGNOSIS

Beighton score is often used to assess for hympermobility, as follows:
1 point if you can place your palms on the ground while standing with your legs straight
1 point for each elbow that bends backwards
1 point for each knee that bends backwards
1 point for each thumb that touches the forearm when bent backwards
1 point for each little finger that bends backwards more than 90 degrees
If you have have 4 or more points out of a possible 9 then you are considered to have hypermobility. However, in order to be diagnosed with JHS, you must have additional symptoms, such as pain lasting three months in at least four joints.

TREATMENT

Following an initial assessment, one of our Physiotherapists will work with you to create a treatment programme tailored around your particular symptoms. It may include some or all of the following:
Manual massage therapy
Muscle release / soft tissue mobilisation
Electrotherapy
Advice on posture re-education and core muscle strengthening
Physiotherapy is an effective method of strengthening muscles surrounding the joints, in order to provide more support and therefore reduce the symptoms. As patients with JHS are more prone to dislocations and sprains, treatment may involve addressing injuries as they occur, whilst also following a long-term plan. JHS is a lifelong condition, so it is important that sufferers learn how to best manage it in all their postures and daily activities. Through a combination of physiotherapy treatment and self-management, you should be able to reduce your symptoms and remain physically active.

For further advice on how this and other conditions can be treated, contact one of our experienced physiotherapists today on 01423 884162.

Please be aware that there are many causes of back pain and we will be covering other conditions in further detail in forthcoming blogs. If you have pins and needles, numbness or severe back pain, please see your GP before starting any exercise or following advice on this page.