Physiotherapy for hypermobility
Hypermobility in its simple form is a very common condition and is often hereditary (runs in families). It simply means an increased flexibility of the soft tissues around one or more joints, which makes the joint more mobile than normal. It’s often known as being double-jointed.
Dana is a professional member with the Hypermobility Syndromes Association (HMSA), a charity dedicated to supporting, educating and disseminating information about the condition. She holds up to date knowledge of the complexities associated with the condition and is experienced in supporting and guiding people from injury to recovery, providing strategies for self long-term maintenance.
Is hypermobility affecting you?
- Do you injure easily? Does it feel like certain joints are unstable? May be slipping in and out of place?
- Are you in a lot of pain?
- Are you clumsy? Bump into things? Fall over?
- Do you constantly feel fatigued (physical or mental) – perhaps not refreshed after sleep?
- Do you find exercising very hard?
- Do you also experience a fast heart rate or feel dizzy as if you might pass out, seemingly for no reason?
- Stomach acidity/reflux, nausea, or constipation – perhaps multiple food intolerances? Any hernias?
- Have you had any bladder concerns?
- Do you bruise easily? Have you noticed widened scars or stretchmarks on different parts of the body? Is your skin is more stretchy than other people’s?
- Do you consider yourself to be anxious or depressed?
Hypermobility is part of a wide range of symptoms which vary in severity along a spectrum.
For some, like dancers, gymnasts or musicians, having a wide range of movement is advantageous. However, in more extreme cases, people with hypermobile joints may experience instability and pain in one or many areas of the body, every now and again, or even all the time.
Some may also experience other more generalized symptoms, which are also as a result of weak collagen, such as stretchy skin, bruising easily, bladder and bowel issues like IBS, reflux, low blood pressure, fast heart rate, or occasional fainting.
There is also a high incidence of other seemingly non related symptoms (called dysautonomia) which are common in Hypermobility Spectrum such as extreme fatigue, anxiety or depression, panic attacks, temperature dysregulation and more. These may complicate rehabilitation from injury.
What causes hypermobility?
Joint hypermobility is due to changes to a type of protein called collagen. Collagen is found throughout the body – for example, in skin and ligaments, but also in blood vessels, the nervous system and other organs.
As tissues are very lax, receptors in the tissue structures around your joints (proprioceptors) do not send the correct message back to the brain to limit the range of motion in a joint.
The joint is allowed to move beyond its normal range and can cause strain or damage to the joint. This condition is common and can be managed with appropriate exercise and advice. Repeated strains and injuries may cause persistent pain in the long run.
If collagen is weaker than it should be, tissues in the body will be fragile, which can make ligaments and joints (and blood vessel walls) loose and stretchy, and therefore more susceptible to injury. Injury causes acute pain and recurrent injury is a major contributor to chronic or persistent pain.
Hypermobility physiotherapy and management
If you are further down the line along the hypermobility spectrum, it is advisable to seek support from a therapist who is aware of the complexities of symptoms in this spectrum and how they may influence your ability to exercise, to strengthen and manage your condition long term.
The most important aspect in long term management is keeping your whole body stable, healthy and strong – easier said than done! Lax ligaments and stretchy muscles take longer to strengthen but sadly lose strength very quickly. Injuries often hold you back and healing is often slow. Fatigue and pain may get in your way.
While a firm diagnosis can be made only by a specialist, so that other causes for your symptoms may be ruled out, you may need help with the pain management or any musculoskeletal issues, so it is important that your physiotherapist is knowledgeable with the latest in the field.
Latest research has shown that children, adolescents and adults benefit mostly when a carefully designed exercise programme is supplemented with education, manual therapy, taping or orthotics, relaxation and self management skills.
Dana is a professional member of the HMSA (Hypermobility Syndromes Association) and has a specific interest in Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder. She is up to date with the latest knowledge in this field, and has many years experience treating and understanding the complexities associated with hypermobility. Alongside hands-on therapy, she can provide guidance on exercise, and education on long-term self maintenance techniques to help best cope with your condition and make living with hypermobility more comfortable and manageable.