Many people experience hypermobility in one or more of their joints. This means that the joint can move beyond the expected normal ranges for that joint. This is often referred to as being “double-jointed”. Usually, this condition has no symptoms and one is able to lead a normal life, unless there is an injury to the joint, causing pain and/or inflammation. If numerous joints are involved and symptoms are present, then one is believed to have hypermobility syndrome. This syndrome has a strong genetic link and thus often runs in families.
Signs and Symptoms
As mentioned earlier, a hypermobile joint often has no symptoms, unless injury to that joint occurs. However, the symptoms of the syndrome include:
· Pain in the knees, hips, elbows and fingers
· Clicking in the joints
· Recurring joint sprains and dislocations due to instability of the joints
· Dizziness and fainting
· Scoliosis is more common in individuals with hypermobility syndrome and this can result in back pain
· Joint hypermobility decreases as we get older, as we become less flexible with age
The following signs can be seen in individuals with hypermobility syndrome:
· The ability to hyperextend the knees and/or elbows past 10 degrees
· The ability to stand with the palms flat on the floor while keeping the knees straight
· The ability to touch the thumb to the forearm
Hypermobility syndrome is diagnosed by means of physical examination according to the above-mentioned signs, as well as various additional tests. There is no blood test or x-ray to diagnose this syndrome.
Treatment and Management
Because there are often no symptoms, treatment is often not required. The condition generally improves as individuals get older because flexibility of the joints decreases with age. If a joint has been sprained or dislocated, then that joint will be treated for that specific injury. The pain associated with hypermobility syndrome can be treated with appropriate pain management drugs according to your doctor. Exercise therapy is particularly important in managing this condition, as the muscles surrounding the joints can be strengthened to improve stability of the joints, thereby reducing the risk of injury. A biokineticist can assist in prescribing and monitoring an appropriate exercise programme that strengthens the muscles while minimizing the risk of risk of injury.
Generally, there are few or no long-term side effects of joint hypermobility. However, in severe cases, individuals may develop arthritis at a later stage. It is, therefore, important to manage the condition with appropriate strengthening exercises from an early age to prevent any injuries and long-term side-effects.