A Closer Look at Hypermobility
Hypermobility is a common symptom of a variety of conditions and can cause problems with pain, tiredness and premature deterioration of the joints. We take a look at what you can do if you suspect that you or your child may be experiencing this condition.
Hypermobility is the term we use to describe the capacity to move joints in your body beyond the normal range of movement. It’s more commonly known as double-jointedness. Everyone sits on a scale of mobility – we also refer to a slightly different term, hypomobility, to describe joints with a lack of normal movement. This is why one child might be able to do the splits without thinking about it, while another can hardly touch their knees. Hypermobility affects all ages, although is quite difficult to diagnose in children since they are naturally more flexible.
Our joints are held together by connective tissue known as ligaments and tendons. Ligaments join one bone to another, while tendons join muscle to bone. Both contain a protein called collagen. Collagen is also found in other parts of your body, such as bones and skin, and acts like a frame, creating strength and structure. If the collagen in your body is weak then it can make your ligaments and tendons loose and stretchy. It is this stretchiness that can lead to extreme range of movement.
Hypermobility is not an ailment per se. It is a description – like saying that someone is tall or short – but it can be a symptom of a variety of conditions, such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and Marfan syndrome. If you are concerned, then your GP should be your first port of call. He or she will be able to assess your mobility based on their experience with other patients. If they suspect hypermobility then they may ask you to carry out something called the Beighton Score. This is a simple test that looks at joint range of motion in parts of the body, such as hands, elbows, knees and back. The test is scored out of nine – anything lower than a five is unlikely to be a problem. A nine would suggest that someone is at the upper end of the hypermobility spectrum.
Although it is not a condition that deteriorates in its own right, hypermobility can cause joint instability and increase the chances of injury. Typically, the feet are the most significantly affected area, due to their complex mixture of bones and soft tissue. In some instances, hypermobile people can suffer with long-term chronic pain or extreme tiredness, since the body is expending more energy than normal when it moves. It can also increase the chance of arthritis. This is because the joint is prone to premature deterioration, which can lead to early breakdown of cartilage.
Physiotherapy can often help. If you can tone the muscles that connect to the tendons that hold the joint close together, then you can take some of the strain off your ligaments. Toned muscles naturally lead to tighter tendons.
At LOC, we recommend Bespoke Foot Orthotics for the majority of our hypermobile patients who suffer from long-term pain. A bespoke orthotic can relieve pressure on certain areas of the foot, reduce knee stress and improve pelvic alignment.
Sometimes we see patients who have lived with pain for so long that they have adapted to it by altering their posture. In those instances, we often recommend Proprioceptive Insoles. These pads are designed to change the tension in the muscle on the soles of the feet, which, in turn, sends signals via the proprioception nerve cells to the cerebellum – the part of your brain that coordinates and regulates muscular activity. The cerebellum then alters muscular tension throughout the body, causing a change in posture.
If you have been diagnosed with hypermobility or a condition like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or Marfan Syndrome, get in touch and we can talk you through your options.
You can also contact Ehlers-Danlos Support UK for support in accessing the right services and medical care to help you manage your condition.