Being hypermobile generally means that the tendons surrounding your joints are very supple.
What is Hypermobility?
A surprising number of people have joint hypermobility and suffer no ill effects. This is probably why not many people know, nor have heard of, the syndrome (members of the medical profession included).
Hypermobility is caused when the muscles, tendons and ligaments around the joints are far more supple than is usual for the majority of people. You may have been able to move your joints into odd positions as a child and thought that you were 'double-jointed'. Hypermobility can affect one or all of your joints.
Mild hypermobility in the most part will probably not affect your everyday life, but in severe cases it can cause a lot of joint pain and may even cause you to dislocate a joint, and not only your shoulder. Hypermobility has also been connected to Fibromyalgia, osteogenesis imperfecta, Marfan Syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. In fact some doctors think that Hypermobility Syndrome may be a mild form of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
Symptoms and Causes
Just because your joints are hypermobile does not automatically mean you will have any symptoms or experience any pain. People who do suffer problems or pain are more likely to be diagnosed as having Hypermobility Syndrome. Hypermobility Syndrome may cause some or all of the following symptoms:
- Joint pain
- A tendency to bruise easily
- Tense, stiff joints
- An ability to over-stretch joints, sometimes causing them to dislocate
Some people have a narrow joint socket which in turn allows the joint a larger area of movement and this causes the hypermobility.
In other people, it will be because their ligaments, tendons and the muscles surrounding the joint are far more flexible than they should be and are therefore not supporting the joint sufficiently. This is caused by the way the collagen in the body has been made up. This type of hypermobility normally affects all of your joints and is generally hereditary.
People may not be aware of their joint movement. This means they don't know when they are over-stretching the joint because it is not uncomfortable. They therefore allow the movement to continue, causing themselves injury.
Doctors and physiotherapists use what is called the Beighton Score to diagnose hypermobility. This consists of a series of questions as follows:
- Can you put your hands flat on the floor with your knees straight?
- Can you bend your left elbow backwards?
- Can you bend your right elbow backwards?
- Can you bend your left knee backwards?
- Can you bend your right knee backwards?
- Can you bend your left thumb back onto the front of your forearm?
- Can you bend your right thumb back onto the front of your forearm?
- Can you bend your little finger on your left hand up at 90° to the back of your hand?
- Can you bend your little finger on your right hand up at 90° to the back of your hand.
If you score positively for five or more of these then the chances are that you are hypermobile.
Management and Coping with Hypermobility Syndrome
Physiotherapy and exercise will help you achieve better muscle control, lessening the likelihood of joint dislocation.
Paracetamol, ibuprofen, and in some cases codydramol, can be used to ease the pain in the joints affected. Some people have found TENS machines1 highly effective for pain relief.
It is very important to avoid any sort of high impact exercise as this will aggravate the joints further. Any low-impact, aerobic exercise (such as cycling or swimming) is the best sort of exercise and will help to strengthen the muscles, giving more control over the joints.
1 The acronym for a strap-on/stick-on device called: Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation.