Hyper mobility

You’ve probably heard about Hypermobility and have an understanding of what it is. You may even suffer from Hypermobility yourself. Or maybe you aren’t quite too sure exactly what it is and simply want to know more.

So, let’s start at the beginning. What actually is hypermobility? Hypermobility is the term used to describe the ability to move joints beyond their normal range of movement[1] – people with hypermobility are particularly supple and are able to move their limbs into positions that others may find impossible. Joint hypermobility can be hereditary, can be caused by years of over stretching and training or can be due to a genetic defect in collagen. You may be wondering what collagen is. Collagen is a type of protein found in the body and makes up our connective tissue (skin, capsule, tendons and bone). If collagen is weaker than it should be this can cause tissue in the body to be fragile, which can make ligaments and joints loose and stretchy, which results in the joints being extended further than the usual.[2] Hypermobility is very popular in the general population and most common in childhood and adolescence, and then goes on to lessen with age. Interestingly, more females are effected over men and is more common in Asian and Afro Caribbean races – the actual reason behind this is currently unknown.

On the whole, most people who are hypermobile don’t experience many problems and some people such as ballet dancers and gymnasts benefit from having increased flexibility. However unfortunately for some, hypermobility can be linked with musculoskeletal pain and can be found in a group of conditions called Heritable Disorders of the Connective Tissue (HDCT). Symptoms and signs can include:

  • Stiffness in joints and muscles
  • Joints that easily dislocate – this can cause immediate acute pain or can lead to longer chronic pain
  • Severe fatigue – this can be driven by chronic pain and poor sleep patterns
  • Recurring injuries such as sprains
  • Digestive problems which can affect your gut health
  • Longer healing times
  • Skin elasticity
  • Poor co-ordination and balance

You may be asking yourself, how is Hypermobility actually diagnosed? The Beighton Score is a popular method and is usually used by healthcare professionals. The Beighton Score consists of a series of five tests assessing your range of movement in some of your joints (5th finger, thumb, elbow, knee on both sides of the body and bending forward and placing your hands on the floor without bending the knees). This can add up to nine points and if you score four or more than then you may be suffering from joint hypermobility. However, it’s important to note a couple of things on top of this. Firstly, a high score by itself doesn’t necessarily mean that you suffer from hypermobility syndrome, other symptoms and signs also need to be present. Also, other joints which are commonly effected by hypermobility but are missed out include the jaw, neck, shoulders, other small joints of the hands and feet, hips, ankles and mid-foot.[3]

In terms of management and treatment, if hypermobility is causing you problems, there are a few ways that you can go about managing and treating this:[4]

  • SELF-CARE – there are some things you can do yourself that can help:
    • Healthy lifestyle – ensure that you have a healthy diet and try and maintain a healthy weight, this will help improve the strength of your joints and reduce strain on them
    • Get active and exercise – stick to low impact exercises such as cycling or swimming
    • Make work place adaptations – standing desks are increasingly popular these days and will also help with your posture
    • Seek advice using gadgets – Lumo Lift is a small, wearable gadget that vibrates every time you slouch to remind you to sit stall and stand straight…clever right?

  • PHYSIOTHERAPIST AND EXERCISE – physiotherapists and personal trainers can be a big help in a number of ways:
    • Visit a physiotherapist – a physiotherapist can help reduce pain, correct the movement of individual joints, advise on special stretching techniques and help improve muscle strength and fitness
    • See a personal trainer – your physiotherapist may refer you to a personal trainer who can help you with specific exercises to improve proprioception and balance, train you and help you understand proper joint positon, improve your muscle strength and fitness and put you on a specific exercise programme

If you are suffering from being hypermobile, or you aren’t too sure but think that you do, please don’t fret as there are many resources out there that can help. Or if perhaps you fancy seeing our team of Physiotherapists or Personal Trainers/Pilates instructors here at Soho Fitness Lab to help you out, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch at hello@sohofitnesslab.com .

[1] Hypermobility Syndromes Association (HSMA): Hypermobility & Illness

[2] NHS Choices: Joint hypermobility

[3] Hypermobility Syndromes Association (HSMA): Beighton Score

[4] NHS Choices: Joint hypermobility

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Published on 13th Jan 17