Have you been referred to as being double-jointed? Can you bend your fingers, arms, and legs in awkward positions with little to no effort? You may have hypermobility syndrome, a condition that primarily presents in children. It refers to the joints’ ability to move beyond an expected range. We will examine the common symptoms and issues that can arise from hypermobility syndrome, a typically harmless condition.
In understanding the hypermobility syndrome definition, we must first point out that, while it can be an advantage for some, it can lead to chronic pain for others. It affects the connective tissue, which can cause the pain when damaged or injured. When pain or stiffness in the joints of those with hypermobility syndrome is present, the condition is known as joint hypermobility syndrome. This can occur when pain during exercise causes one to avoid or decrease physical activity, and the body becomes deconditioned and frail. Not all hypermobility syndrome patients acquire exercise-related pain.
Causes and Risk Factors of Hypermobility Syndrome
Hypermobility syndrome affects more girls than boys. If the double-jointedness is not due to an underlying health condition, experts refer to it as benign hypermobility syndrome. These cases are a result of the shape of the bone, the joint socket depth, the muscle tone, or family history.
Hypermobility syndrome is thought to be an inherited condition based on the sharing of certain collagen genes in those with hypermobile joints. It can be linked to those with certain medical health conditions in rare cases. Patients with the following conditions are at a higher risk for experiencing such flexibility:
1. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
Covers a wide range of disorders affecting the body’s connective tissues, with defective tissues causing loose joints.
2. Down Syndrome
This genetic disorder can cause loose joints, which is a common musculoskeletal issue.
3. Cleidocranial Dysostosis
The poor bone development that is caused by this genetic disorder can result in the joints having excessive flexibility.
4. Marfan Syndrome
This causes the joint connective tissue to be loose and pliable.
5. Morquio Syndrome
A rare inherited disorder, this affects the metabolic system giving joints overly flexible movement.
Hypermobility Syndrome Symptoms
For people with hypermobility syndrome, it can be hard to gauge the excessive movement of the joints in some situations. As non-benign cases usually present other signs and symptoms, it is crucial to recognize what can and cannot be treated. Some of the hypermobility syndrome symptoms that present with other conditions are:
- Joint pain
- Dislocation of joint
- Stiffness of joint
- Joint clicking
- Back pain
- Exercise-induced pain
- Reduced coordination
Diagnosis of Hypermobility Syndrome
A hypermobility syndrome diagnosis involves looking at the functioning of the joints as well as other trade characteristics. As with all medical visits, a complete history is taken based on past and existing health conditions, physical activity, and notation of symptoms. A physical exam will determine the extent of the flexibility, such as calculating the distance the fingers can bend backward.
As there is no blood test to confirm diagnosis, one test used is the Beighton hypermobility score. Measuring the flexibility and elasticity of the joints, this test is based on a nine-point scoring scale. The more movement, the higher the score. The results of this test are compared with results of a muscle strength assessment known as the Kendall Scale. The physical movement ability in the person’s stance and walk is also measured.
Treatment of Hypermobility Syndrome
Hypermobility syndrome treatment is applied in cases where other symptoms are present. Some cases improve over time, with several of the mild symptoms dissipating. Based on symptoms, various treatments are used.
Medical treatments include prescribed medication for any inflammation and pain, while physical therapy may help strengthen any injuries.
Hypermobility Syndrome Exercises
To learn to control and live with hypermobility syndrome, doctors recommend participation in regular exercise activities. The exercise is started at a slow speed with low impact.
It is necessary to perform daily stretches for the entire body. This condition usually affects the thoracic spine first, so a good stretch is doing a 90-degree rotation of the core. While sitting straight in a chair, twist to reach the back of the chair, having the shoulder at a right angle to the pelvis. Repeat with other side daily.
Our joints and muscles work closely together, so it is important to maintain muscle strength with hypermobility syndrome. It can also help to prevent wear and tear on the joints. This includes the muscles and joints of the ankles, knees, hips, pelvis, shoulders, arms, and elbows. You can strengthen the muscles with exercises of weight lifting, and using equipment such as medicine balls and tension bands.
One of the effects of hypermobility syndrome is not recognizing the positioning of the neighboring body parts and the force behind their movement. Proprioception exercises may help with the unusual posture often seen with this condition. You can help to improve coordination and balance by performing exercises that target these issues. This can include walking with eyes closed in a safe environment, single-leg ball rolling, board balancing, trampoline jumping, and leg bends on one leg.
Living with hypermobility syndrome can be as natural as not having the condition for many people. It is thought to be beneficial for athletes such as dancers and gymnasts. For those dealing with other heath conditions at the same time, life can present physical and emotional challenges. Most accompanying health conditions are inherited, and can only be treated by targeting the symptoms. Hypermobility syndrome can be made easier to live with through some simple stretches and exercises done on a daily basis.
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