Joint hypermobility – or to be ‘double-jointed’ – is a condition where joints are more flexible than they need to be, meaning they can extend past their required range of movement. There are 360 joints in the body and it can affect any of them, but more often than not, just a few.
It is surprisingly common across the board (it is estimated that 20-30% of the population are hypermobile to some degree, in some joints), however, it is most common in childhood and teenage years, and more common in females than males. It does, of course, tend to lessen with age – we’ve all felt the stiffening of the years! In many people joint hypermobility goes unnoticed as it is of no medically significant consequence and there are no symptoms to speak of. Hypermobility can even be seen as an advantage, to some, for example athletes, gymnasts, and dancers (you know your Yoga Teacher who does “those” positions….?). Even musicians might specifically be selected because of their extra range of movement.
However, for a small percentage of the population, far from being advantageous, hypermobility is associated with joint and ligament injuries, pain, fatigue and other symptoms. Joint Hypermobility syndrome is thought by many experts to be part of the same spectrum as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is a more severe type of Hypermobility and effects around 1 in 5000 people. Despites its prevalence and symptoms, though, the International Paralympic Committee do not consider it a disability.
What causes Hypermobility?
Where your bones meet at a joint, the ends of them are surrounded by a capsule filled with fluid and held together by strong ligaments, which stop the joint from moving further than it should, and so dislocating. The muscles surrounding the joint are attached to your bones with tendons, allowing you to bend, twist and run. In those affected by hypermobility, the collagen fibres which make up any of these soft tissues is of lower quality and strength, meaning they move beyond their normal range.
How is it diagnosed?
Clinically we use The Beighton Score, which consists of a series of five tests, the results of which can add up to a total of nine points.
- 1 point if you can place your palms on the ground while standing with your legs straight
- 1 point for each elbow that bends backwards
- 1 point for each knee that bends backwards
- 1 point for each thumb that touches the forearm when bent backwards
- 1 point for each little finger that bends backwards beyond 90 degrees
If your Beighton score is 4 or more, it is likely that you have joint hypermobility. However, this cannot be used to confirm a diagnosis, because it is important to look at all the joints. Blood tests and scans are sometimes recommended to rule out other conditions.
For more information, please visit http://hypermobility.org/
N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work.
If you are suffering with aches and pains, please contact Dan@DC-InjuryClinic.co.uk