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Hypermobility Syndrome

Hypermobility is when all or some of your joints bend or move too much.

Common Signs & Symptoms

  • Very flexible joints, sometimes known as 'double jointed'
  • A history of doing a sport requiring a lot of flexibility when you were growing eg ballet or gymnastics
  • Able to put your hands flat on the floor with your legs straight when standing
  • You’re able to bend your thumb to touch your forearm
  • You can do the splits
  • Burning or ache in muscles and joints, anywhere in your body
  • You may have very stretchy skin

Description

Hypermobility is when all or some of your joints bend or move too much. This can be something you're born with but you can also develop hypermobility from doing sports or activities which require lots of flexibility such as dance and gymnastics when your bones are developing. It tends to affect women more than men, due to the effect of hormones which can make the soft tissues around your joints more stretchy.

Your joints are held together by the shape of your bones, your ligaments and joint capsules, and your muscles; when your joints move too much, your muscles have to work much harder to stop them from becoming strained. This is fine if your postural muscles work well but if there is too much wiggle in your joint it can lead to muscle imbalances and pain.

Advice & Treatment

To reduce the pain from hypermobile joints and the effect these have on the muscles and soft tissues surrounding them, the best thing you can do is to improve your core (stomach and back) muscles and general muscle strength and control.

Some of your joints may actually become more stable as you age so some people with hypermobile joints will actually improve as they grow older. Other people may have more strength and stability in their joints when they are younger (usually because their muscles are in better condition) but if you reduce the amount of exercise you do as you age, hypermobile symptoms may get worse.

The more you stretch your joints out, the more they will loosen, so keep away from activities which make you more flexible. Improving your posture will have the added benefit of activating the right muscles and taking strain off your body.

Activities like Pilates will help to increase your general strength, tone and control, as will a general conditioning programme which includes both lower body (eg walking) and upper body (eg press-ups) exercises. It is always best to get an assessment from a physical trainer to make sure you are doing the exercises properly.

Joint pains can be relieved by medications for pain or inflammation.

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