We’ve all seen those party trickers, the contortionists, the finger benders, the ankle behind the headers, the limboists. Maybe you’re one yourself. It’s kind of fun. Such flexibility is called hypermobility. Advantageous to dancers, musicians, swimmers and party trickers in the early years the fun soon stops if hypermobility isn’t correctly managed as it can lead to chronic pain.
One of the most commonly underdiagnosed and under appreciated conditions in physical therapy hypermobility is associated with a wide range of common medical issues. Issues such as links to Fibromyalgia, coordination problems, digestive issues, fatigue, chronic pain and early onset osteoarthritis. Issues that people often fail to link with their hypermobility.
So What Is hypermobility?
hypermobility is an interesting condition. The joints of hypermobile people are different. They have more ‘give’ in them than in other people and consequently the body has to respond to this extra flexibility through increased muscular tension in an effort to try and stabilise.
A genetic disorder, hypermobility is classed as ‘a hereditary disorder of connective tissue’. Connective tissue binds everything together to make it strong. The genetic and hormonal weakening of the connective tissue that makes up the joints surround allows greater movement within the joint – movement that we define as hypermobility.
This additional strain on the joints, muscles, tendons, tissue and skin surrounding them can, over time, lead to chronic pain if not correctly managed.
The Emotional Effects of hypermobility
So why is this condition more complex than ‘just loose joints’?
What are the consequences of hypermobility and how do they impact?
For a start if you continually ignore the physical manifestations of hypermobility such as functional gastrointestinal disease, heart problems, asthma, neoplasia and chronic pain problems can also cause emotional wellbeing issues too – things like anxiety, phobias and stress. In fact research has shown that nearly 70% of people affected by panic disorders are hypermobile. Clearly it makes sense to seek treatment.
How Do We Diagnose hypermobility?
hypermobility evaluation starts with a few basic questions. The answers will hopefully tell us which form of the many different variants of hereditary hypermobility disorders you’re dealing with. Disorders such as Marfan Syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Stickler Syndrome, Osteogenesis Imperfecta.
Just some of the many symptoms of joint hypermobility that you may be experiencing:
- Double jointed
- Thin, stretchy skin that bruises easily
- Joint pain
- Being able to do the splits or voluntarily dislocate joints
- Clumsiness/lack of balance
- A history of multiple bone fractures
- Chronic fatigue
- Heavy and painful menstrual cycle
- Feeling dizzy/faint/POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome)
- Hernias (hiatus/abdominal)
How Do We Fix hypermobility?
Although there is nothing anyone can do to fix and strengthen the connective tissue we can help to manage it using manual and physical therapy.
Osteopathy and massage are great for identifying stress and reducing tension to allow better function, while physical therapy can help stabilise the joints and regain balance control (provided the work is carefully designed to meet the patient’s specific needs).
Ill-focused treatment methods or training that isn’t designed specifically for a hypermobile patient can actually lead to further pain and dislocation. That’s what makes it so important to insist that your therapist is an expert in hypermobility. See our exercise programmes under services for further information.
For the emotional effects of hypermobility we recommend mindfulness which offers a proven and effective intervention in reducing anxiety and fear avoidance behaviours.
Why We Specialise in hypermobility at Movement and Wellbeing Clinic
Once diagnosed our patients take great comfort in realising both exactly what they’re dealing with and also the fact that they now don’t have to face their challenge alone.
A complex issue with complex consequences the many day to day complications of hypermobility can cause a very personal response to clinical diagnosis. A reaction that is usually one of relief as often patients weren’t sure how ‘normal’ their symptoms were and are relieved to have their conditions defined and their treatment planned.
As challenging as hypermobility can be for us and especially our patients, everyday we’re privileged to be able guide hypermobile patients on their journey of better health. A road as complex as the nature of the condition perhaps that’s why so few clinics actually specialise in hypermobility.