Some people are able to move and extend their joints beyond what is considered the normal range of movement. This ability is described as hypermobility syndrome, or more informally, being double-jointed. For example, the individual is able to bend their thumb backwards to touch their forearm, or bend their little finger back further than 90 degrees, or bend a knee or elbow backwards.
Hypermobility syndrome is more common in children, young people and often improves with age. It also appears to be more prevalent in females and in some ethnicities.
In some cases, hypermobility may be considered an advantage, especially so for gymnasts, dancers, and musicians however the condition can also cause pain and unpleasant symptoms.
- Pain in the joints
- Stiffness in the joints
- Ligament injuries
- Frequent sprains and strains
- Regularly dislocating joints
- Thin stretchy skin
- Bladder and bowel problems
What Is Hypermobility Syndrome?
‘Hypermobility syndromes’ is a blanket term used by some specialists to refer to a broad collection of heritable connective tissue disorders, where symptomatic hypermobility is recognised as a common feature. These include Marfan syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Stickler’s syndrome, Larsen syndrome and osteogenesis imperfecta. Each of these disorders has differing symptoms and complications.
More commonly, however, hypermobility is often associated with a collagen disorder known as Benign Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (BJHS). BJHS is typically characterised by general joint flexibility without the presence of musculoskeletal pain and without any signs of systemic rheumatologic disease.
To distinguish between BJHS and other disorders with similar symptoms, alternative causes of joint laxity should be eliminated. This is done using the Brighton Criteria, a type of scoring system used to evaluate symptoms into major or minor categories. Integrated into the Brighton Criteria is The Beighton Score; a predecessor to the Brighton Criteria which was used in the diagnosis of hypermobility syndrome. The Brighton Criteria was developed by Professor Rodney Grahame, a leading specialist Rheumatologist in UCLH who helped significantly improve research, management of the condition and its recognition. This set of tests is widely used among practitioners during diagnosis to help rule out other disorders and arrive at a more accurate diagnosis.
It appears that BJHS is genetically linked to collagen. Those with BJHS typically have collagen which is more elastic and flexible but less robust. This does not cause problems for everybody, although some people may experience painful symptoms. It appears to be a hereditary consequence of connective tissue disorders characterised by individuals with stretchy skin and looser joints.
There is currently no definitive cure for hypermobility syndrome or BJHS; however, the main and most effective form of treatment is physiotherapy. This helps to relieve painful symptoms, improve muscle strength, identify incorrect movement patterns, offer targeted exercise and self-care methods to help protect joints.
With regular physiotherapy treatment sessions, painful symptoms should improve, and the risk of dislocation will subsequently be reduced. It can also have marked improvement on general posture, balance, muscle strength and fitness helping to reduce symptoms and improve general wellbeing.
Our team of physiotherapists are highly qualified and as such, we are able to treat a wide range of conditions and disorders including hypermobility syndrome, using research-based treatments that are proven to be valid and effective. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms that could be related to hypermobility syndrome, get in touch with the ProPhysiotherapy team today to book a consultation.