What is a Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder?
A Hypermobility Disorder (HD) is an umbrella term that generally describes someone who has hyper mobile joints with symptoms. A hyper mobile joint is not a disease or a diagnosis. It simply describes a joint that moves a greater than average range of motion. It becomes a disorder when it starts to cause symptoms such as pain, instability, impedes function and activity.
What Causes a Hypermobility Disorder?
There are a number of factors that determine the stability and mobility of a joint. Examples include – the shape of the bones, training, previous injury, muscle strength and proprioception (how we perceive the position and movement of our joints). Other factors include genetics, age, gender and hormones.
A HD may or may not be associated with an underlying Connective Tissue Disorder (CTD). Connective tissue makes up some of the major structures of our body – our muscles, bones, ligaments, blood vessels, gastrointestinal system etc. With a CTD there are changes in the strength and laxity of connective tissue throughout the body. Examples of these include Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Marfan Syndrome, Loeys-Dietz Syndrome. An individual will likely have hyper mobile joints and other symptoms throughout the body as well.
What are Signs and Symptoms of a Hypermobility Disorder?
An individual with a HD will have one or more hyper mobile joints throughout their body. Their elbows and knees may hyperextend or their fingers can bend backwards quite far. Any joint in the body can be affected. These joints may also be painful and lack control.
Other common symptoms include: headaches/migraines, abnormal skin – skin that stretches far or scars easily, anxiety, gastrointestinal problems – bloating, constipation, early satiety, fatigue and pelvic organ prolapse.
Frequently these individuals will also have disturbances in their autonomic nervous system and may experience something called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). With POTS a persons heart rate will increase abnormally with position changes. A person may feel light-headed, fainting spells, blurred vision, blacking out with changing position.
Are you Hypermobile?
Try answering the 5 questions below:
- Can you now (or could you ever) place your hands flat on the floor without bending your knees?
- Can you now (or could you ever) bend your thumb to touch your forearm?
- As a child, did you amuse your friends by contouring your body into strange shapes or do the splits?
- As a child or teenager, did your shoulder or kneecap dislocate on one or more occasion?
- Do you consider yourself “double-jointed”?
If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions it suggests that you have generalized joint hypermobility.
How is a Hypermobility Disorder treated?
A physiotherapist or chiropractor at Rebalance will assess the range of motion and stability of the joints throughout your body. After that assessment they will teach you how to activate deep stabilizing muscles surrounding your affected joints. They will teach you how to maintain your joints in a neutral and safe position. You will be given a tailored exercise program that focuses on improving your strength, balance and position awareness. They will also treat any painful joints and muscles with manual therapy.
For more systemic symptoms, you may also see a pelvic physiotherapist if you are experiencing any pelvic problems. If you are experiencing any dysautonomic symptoms (i.e. POTS) the best treatment for this is a specific exercise program focused on controlling position changes, compression stockings and diet changes.
If you have been diagnosed with a Hypermobility Disorder or are concerned about the stability of your joints definitely set up an assessment with one of our healthcare professionals. There are lots of fully functional, high level athletes with extremely hypermobile joints. With a couple tips and tricks, we can get you back to whatever activity or sport you love to do!