What is Hypermobility Syndrome?
With all the hype on the media about it, you possibly have heard about it. I am not sure you would have paid attention to the details though unless you or your loved one suffers from it. The first investigated on Hypermobility dates back to 1916.
The non-medical term ‘double-jointed’ is often used to describe it. It is not always the case that the joint ‘visually’ looks hypermobile. It’s the term used to describe the ability to move joints beyond the normal range of movement. This article will look at the differences between EDS & JHS and how Pilates may help treat them.
Myself, I was diagnosed years ago. Having had been a long term Pilates instructor, I thought I knew all there was to know about my body until I was hit with this bomb shell. There was a sense of relief to know I wasn’t imagining the pain I felt .The chronic pain Hypermobility has caused me dates back to my teens.
Who is affected?
Joint Hypermobility is a genetic condition and a very common one. With every 10-20% of Western society and a much high volume in females and of people with Black, Asian ethnicity are affected.
You may have been aware from an early age that your joints were more supple than usual. This might not have caused you any problems, and you may even have found that your flexible joints have been an advantage. Or, you have been suffering with one or ALL of the factors listed below.
But if you have any of the following symptoms you may have joint hypermobility syndrome:
- Pain: This is the most common complaint although unusual for it to be the only symptom. Several joints and areas of the body can be involved, and varying in duration from acute (15 days) to as long as 45 Years (El-Shahaly & El-Sherif 1991).
- Muscle strain: Your muscles have to work harder if your joints are very supple and this can lead to muscle strain. As a result, an 'overuse' develops in the muscles around the joint (though the pain may appear to come from the joint itself).
- Joint stiffness: If a joint feels stiff or tense this may be caused by fluid collecting inside the joint. This is probably because your body is trying to repair the small amounts of damage that are caused if a muscle is over-stretched. Your pain will often feel worse as the day goes on and improve at night with rest, although sometimes you may also feel pain at night.
- Joint pains in the foot: You may have a flat arch to your foot, which may start to hurt after standing for a long time.
- Backache This can be a problem if the base of your spine is particularly supple and the muscles around your spine aren't working to support it correctly. Very occasionally the joints in your back can slip on another (this is called a spondylolisthesis).
- Injured or dislocated joints Hypermobile joints are more likely to get injured than normal joints if they're overstretched. Sometimes the joint can dislocate – this is most common in the shoulder or the kneecap.
Women or girls who are hypermobile may notice that their joints are more painful around the time of their period, and they may be more clumsy than usual.
During pregnancy, because of the hormonal changes, joints tend to become even more hypermobile. They remain this way during breastfeeding. Occasionally the ‘waters’ may break early.
How is it diagnosed?
First and foremost the word ‘diagnosis’ should be used with caution as it suggests a medical condition. For the vast majority of individuals their hypermobility is just the way they are built and may be of no consequence in terms of symptoms and function.
Healthcare professionals may quote the Beighton Score which is a nine-point scoring system that looks for hypermobility in the 5th finger, thumb, elbow, and knee on both sides of the body, and the ability to bend forward and place the palms of the hands flat on the floor without bending the knees.
Want to know if you're hypermobile?
Try the Beighton Hypermobility Score
Although this scoring system has had its use in research studies it is not the only observation that should be made in a clinical examination. Hypermobility is often found at the jaw, neck, shoulders, other small joints of the hands and feet, hips, ankles and mid-foot.
Possible underlying health conditions a hypermobility person can present with beyond joint hypermobility
- Severe fatigue
- Anxiety and phobias.
- Easy bruising, scarring that is stretched, thin and often wrinkled, and stretch marks that appeared at a young age and in many places across the body. The skin often feels soft and velvety;
- Weakness of the abdominal and pelvic wall muscles that presents as hernias (such as hiatus hernia) or prolapse of the pelvic floor causing problems with bowel and bladder function;
- Unexplained chest pains – perhaps the individual has been told they have a heart murmur and mitral valve prolapse;
- Blackouts or near blackouts that may be associated with low blood pressure or fast heart rate, and often triggered by change in posture from lying/sitting to standing, or after standing in one position for even just a few minutes
- Symptoms that sound like Irritable Bowel Syndrome with bloating, constipation, and cramp-like abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath, perhaps diagnosed as asthma because the symptoms seem the same, but not responding to inhalers
- Noticing that local anesthetics, used for example in dentistry, do not seem to be very effective or require much more than might be expected
If any of those symptoms are true for you, suffer in silence no more. If Hypermobility is part of your genetic make up like mine, click here to download the Beighton Hypermobility Score. Contact your GP and know that Hope Pilates can be that addition support to equip you with issues such as pain management, stretches, body alignment, rehabilitation, relaxation, strengthening & preconception.