Hypermobility and How to Manage It
Hypermobility and How to Manage It.
Do you have extra bendy fingers or joints that can stretch much further than other people’s? Perhaps you can bend over and place your hands flat on the floor with ease, while those around you struggle to get their fingertips to the floor. Maybe you’ve been told you’re double jointed, or you have a predisposition to sprains and strains. If so, you could well be hypermobile, which means your joints are more flexible than normal and you have weaker ligaments. The degree to which hypermobility affects your life will depend on its severity; some people are barely affected at all, while others find there is a significant impact on their quality of life.
What is hypermobility syndrome?
Clinicians believe that there is a significant genetic influence in hypermobility. The genes involved are those responsible for creating collagen, the essential protein that binds tissues together in your body. Hypermobility is frequently seen in genetically related family members, and children with the condition often have taller than average parents. Around ten to fifteen per cent of the population will have some degree of hypermobility, although many of these will only experience mild symptoms that don’t require medical treatment. In some people the condition can result in a higher than average incidence of injuries such as sprained ankles and wrists, an increased risk of disc problems in the spine, and joint dislocations, particularly the shoulders. Sufferers are also more likely to have pain in their joints, which can lead to osteoarthritis. Severe forms of hypermobility are known as Marfan Syndrome and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.
Symptoms and associated disorders
The existence of the condition is usually clear to see, with the ability to bend joints to extreme degrees being a classic symptom. That makes the initial diagnosis a simple matter of examining the extent of the flexibility in all the joints to assess the degree to which you may be affected. Patients often report additional symptoms to their doctor, such as acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, headaches and migraines, problems with sleeping, and painful, difficult eating caused by a dysfunction in the joints of the jaw known as TMJ Syndrome. Patients may also complain of a variety of chronic health issues including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and neuropathic pain conditions. When you are affected to such a degree by hypermobility, it can often lead to mental health problems such as depression, which compounds the physical effects on your life.
If symptoms are mild and not interfering with your daily life, then you won’t need any specific treatment. If you do have hypermobile joints, it’s sensible to be careful with them and not put them under stress, as you may find that you start to feel the effects as you get older. Everyone’s flexibility decreases as they age, so you will find the hypermobility lessens over time, however you will be more likely to experience arthritic changes in your joints if you are hypermobile. Exercise is important to keep the ligaments, tendons and muscles strong and help support the hypermobile joints, but it should be designed to take your hypermobility into consideration and not increase the risk of injuries. Anti-inflammatory pain medication can be effective for the relief of mild discomfort, but here at Piedmont Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation there are other treatments available that we find effective as part of a holistic approach to improving patient health.
Reducing total load approach
Many chronic pain problems lack a definitive treatment that will work for all patients. At Piedmont we take the view that each case is unique, and that by dealing with every aspect of a patient’s well being. This holistic approach starts with providing patients with information on how they can help themselves, proper nutrition, individualized exercise prescriptions, and other management techniques such as physical therapy, bracing, and the use of non-opiate medications.
Whats more we have a wide range of other treatments that are often beneficial, including regenerative therapies such as Prolotherapy, Platelet Rich Plasma, and Stem Cell injections. In each instance we are focused on strengthening weak or loose ligaments and associated tissues with the goal of reducing and improving function. The good news is that in the vast majority of cases these treatments work. Furthermore, we have specialized testing methods such as Diagnostic Musculoskeletal Ultrasound that helps us to identify exactly which ligaments or tissues need care.
If hypermobility is causing you pain or difficulties in your life, call Piedmont Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and book an appointment with one of our expert clinicians, who will be able to assess your needs and help improve your quality of life.