Joint hypermobility means that a person’s joints have a greater range of motion than is expected or normal. People with hypermobility are particularly flexible and able to move their limbs into positions others find impossible. Hypermobility affects around 30% of the population, with around 10% of these people living with symptoms which can range from mild to disabling.
Joint hypermobility is often hereditary (runs in families). One of the main causes is thought to be genetically determined changes to a type of protein called collagen. Collagen is found throughout the body – for example, in skin and ligaments (the tough bands of connective tissue that link two bones together at a joint).If collagen is weaker than it should be, tissues in the body will be fragile, which can make ligaments and joints loose and stretchy. As a result, the joints can extend further than usual. Women are more likely to develop hypermobility syndrome than men and, is less common in white than in people of different ethnic backgrounds.
- pain and stiffness in the joints and muscles
- clicking joints
- fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- recurrent injuries – such as sprains, joint dislocations, and subluxation
- digestive problems such as constipation and IBS (irritable bowel disease)
- poor co-ordination
- stretchy skin
- abnormal scarring.
The nature of hypermobility means that you are at increased risk of injuries, such as dislocations and sprains. Managing the condition may therefore also involve treating short-term injuries as they arise, while following a long-term treatment plan to manage daily symptoms.
The main treatment for hypermobility is improving muscle strength and fitness, so your joints are better protected. Physiotherapy can reduce pain, improve your strength, fitness and balance which will help reduce the risk of dislocations. Hypermobility in your feet can also increase the likelihood of strains and sprains in your foot, and for this reason it may be a good idea to see a podiatrist. A podiatrist can assess your feet and walking and give you a pair of insoles that can help support your feet. These insoles will reduce the movements of your feet, helping to prevent injury.