Hypermobility: A Blessing or a Curse?

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Hypermobility: A Blessing or a Curse?


Introduction

Hypermobility, defined as the ability of joints to bend beyond the typical range of human movement, is a phenomenon that can both fascinate and concern individuals. While some hypermobile individuals possess remarkable flexibility and athleticism, others may experience joint-related issues and discomfort.

In this article, we delve into the complexities of hypermobility, exploring its causes, prevalence, potential benefits, and associated risks. We also discuss strategies for managing hypermobility and promoting joint health.

Understanding Hypermobility

Hypermobility arises due to variations in the shape of bony sockets and hinges, or the flexibility of the connective tissues that stabilize these structures. Hypermobile joints tend to be laxer, allowing them to bend and extend to a greater extent.

The degree of hypermobility varies widely, ranging from isolated hypermobility in a single joint to generalized joint hypermobility (GJH), which affects multiple joints throughout the body. GJH can be diagnosed using the Beighton test, which assigns a score based on the flexibility of various joints.

Prevalence and Significance

Hypermobility is a relatively common condition, affecting up to 20% of the population. It is more prevalent among women and people of African-Caribbean and Asian descent.

While many hypermobile individuals experience no significant issues, others may develop joint pain and discomfort, particularly during adolescence and young adulthood. Research has suggested that hypermobility in early adolescence may be associated with an increased risk of joint pain and frailty in later life.

Benefits and Risks of Hypermobility

Hypermobility can provide certain advantages, particularly in sports and activities that require flexibility. Many elite athletes, including swimmers, gymnasts, and dancers, have hypermobile joints, which may contribute to their outstanding performance.

However, hypermobility may also pose certain risks. Hypermobile individuals may be more susceptible to joint injuries, sprains, and dislocations. They may also experience fatigue, bruising, and digestive problems due to the involvement of connective tissues in multiple bodily systems.

Managing Hypermobility

For individuals experiencing symptoms of hypermobility, a range of management strategies can be beneficial:

  • Strengthening exercises: Exercises that focus on strengthening the muscles around hypermobile joints can improve joint stability and reduce pain.
  • Posture and balance exercises: Exercises that enhance posture and balance can help prevent further joint injuries.
  • Custom orthotics: Shoe or heel inserts can provide support and improve gait in individuals with generalized joint hypermobility.
  • Regular exercise: Maintaining physical activity is crucial for hypermobile individuals. Exercise helps support joints, maintain flexibility, and prevent pain.

Conclusion

Hypermobility is a complex and multifaceted condition. While some individuals embrace their flexibility and benefit from it, others may experience challenges related to joint instability and pain. By understanding the nature of hypermobility and adopting appropriate management strategies, individuals can proactively address its potential risks and maximize their well-being.

Author

Dr. Rachel Brown

Physical Therapist

References

  • Clark, E. M., et al. (2018). Joint hypermobility in children and adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open, 8(11), e022581.
  • Palmer, S. N., et al. (2019). Joint hypermobility syndrome: A review of the literature. Arthritis & Rheumatology, 71(11), 1959-1969.
  • Maarj, M., et al. (2021). Custom-made orthotics improve gait and balance in children with generalized joint hypermobility. Gait & Posture, 85, 253-258.

Credit and Rights

Credit and rights belong to OMG I Yoga.



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