What is Hypermobility and What Should I Do About It?
It sounds a bit scary, but hypermobility (aka being ‘double-jointed’) is actually pretty common and not normally something to worry about. In fact, it’s estimated that one in ten people have some degree of hypermobility in their joints; that is, they have more than the usual range of motion in one, some, or many of their joints. And for most, their hypermobility doesn’t cause them distress.
So, if you’ve noticed that your joints are hypermobile what should you do?
We’ve outlined a few lifestyle and exercise tips below, but for the most part, if you’re not experiencing any pain and haven’t injured yourself, then it’s time to keep moving. We, as chiropractors, encourage you to consider your extra-bendiness just a quirk of your body and get on with living and exercising for health and enjoyment. However, if you’re experiencing joint pain, the team at Body Cure Sport & Therapy is here to help.
What Causes Hypermobility of the Joints?
Tendons and ligaments connect muscles and bones at joints. If these soft tissues are lax, the joints can move beyond their expected range of motion (think fingers or knees bending backwards). Now, this laxity can be caused in specific joints by injury. We know, for example, that having sprained your ankle in the past makes it more likely you’ll do so again in the future. However, if you’re hypermobile in multiple joints it’s possible that there are genetic causes. It’s thought that those with systemic hypermobility handle collagen differently. Interestingly, people with hypermobile joints might find they also bruise easily or have delicate skin; collagen is the main protein in the skin just as it is in the body’s connective tissues. It’s not something to worry about unless it’s causing you distress (although searching out extra-sensitive soaps and sunscreens couldn’t hurt!)
What Should I Do About My Hypermobility?
There are a few lifestyle and exercise tips that are worth bearing in mind.
Strengthening the muscles around the affected joint or joints will give you more stability. Such strength and stability will help prevent dislocations, subluxations, and painful misalignments. Low-impact activities are recommended, especially if you’re new to exercise. But anything will be beneficial if you take care to work through the full intended range of motion. This means you’ll be strengthening muscles through the full normal range of movement, but not hyperextending the joint (bending the knees backwards for example) at any point. Your chiropractor may be able to offer insight into the right exercises for you, ensuring you develop the smaller, stabilising muscles as well as those needed for bigger, compound movements.
Work on your balance
Proprioception (our sense of where our bodies are in space) comes from receptors in our muscles, tendons, joint capsules, ligaments, skin, and inner ear. It’s no surprise that particularly lax tendons and ligaments (and repeatedly damaged joints) result in generally poorer balance and proprioception. Sometimes it feels like furniture jumps out at you with the explicit intention of causing you to stub your little toe, doesn’t it? And since your joints are hypermobile, quite possibly dislocate it!
Happily, the body responds quickly to balance training. Standing on one foot, then doing the same with eyes closed, walking on a balance beam, or just playing on the equipment at your local playground, throwing a ball against a wall or playing ‘keepy-uppy’ with a balloon will all help improve your balance and proprioception. Your chiropractor can help you develop a more detailed plan specific to you.
Laxity in tendons and ligaments supporting the knees and ankles makes people with hypermobility prone to flat feet, which can cause problems and pain of their own. Well-fitted shoes with arch support or a pair of orthotics can help prevent this from becoming a problem.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Excess weight puts excess strain on your joints. A healthy diet will also ensure your body has the nutrients it needs to heal.
And what shouldn’t I do?
Don’t overextend the joint just because you can. (The contortionist at the circus gets paid to be bendy – you do not!)
Don’t push yourself to complete repetitive exercises that cause pain through your joints. Stop, rest and pace yourself.
When Should I See My chiropractor?
So, in general, we advise you to take a few sensible precautions, but otherwise, get on with enjoying life. However, if you’re experiencing pain, it’s time to make an appointment. The team at Body Cure Sport & Therapy is here to help.
How can chiropractic help?
Hypermobility encourages poor positioning of the joints. Someone with lax soft tissues around their feet and ankles for example is likely to have flat feet while someone whose knee is not well supported by strong ligaments might over-straighten that knee. Both postures can lead to a misaligned pelvis and spine. And once the spine is misaligned the nervous system is affected. So, hypermobility can result in pain and injury in the affected joints, surrounding muscles and ultimately throughout the whole body.
A chiropractic adjustment can return the joint to an improved position, relieve pressure on it and surrounding muscles, and help to realign the spine, relieving pain everywhere. Your chiropractor may perform the sort of adjustments you expect from a “normal” chiropractic session on stiff joints, while performing a gentler realignment on hypermobile joints. Your chiropractor can also help you develop an at-home strengthening programme. Ultimately, we can help you with relief from pain and restore you to healthy movement.
If you are hypermobile and experiencing discomfort of any kind, contact the clinic today on (905) 265-0006. Our team will book you in for an initial consultation and we’ll take care of the rest!