Always injured? Super bendy and flexible? Maybe you’re Hypermobile. Find out how Physios can help.
Hypermobility is an issue we treat in our clinic daily. It can cause a number of issues including being easily injured, experiencing more musculoskeletal pain and in more severe cases affecting your nervous system. This blog will discuss how to tell if you are hypermobile and what a physiotherapist can do to help you prevent injuries, decrease pain and be at your fittest and strongest. But first let’s look at what hypermobility is and what causes it.
What is it?
Hypermobility is where a person’s ligaments and supporting structures are more flexible and bendy than normal. Ligaments and other supporting structures, such as joint capsules, are fibrous structures that surround our joints and keep them in place. These structures need to be strong and order to prevent us spraining our joints when we move them quickly and in large ranges. This occurs in many sports where we have to stretch and bend, as well as in everyday life.
For people who are hypermobile, their ligaments are not as stiff due to genetic factors such as problems in the gene for collagen (the same pesky protein that keeps our soft tissues strong and elastic, declining as we age and causing wrinkles!). The condition is often hereditary, so you can thank your mum or dad for this one. It is more common in women, affecting approximately 5% and approximately 1% of men. However, it is often under diagnosed as many people just think it’s normal to be extra flexible.
How can you tell if you’re hypermobile?
The best way to find out is to come in and see one of our physio’s who can appropriately assess your joints. But if you are able to do some of these things then it may give you an indication that you are hypermobile.
- Able to bend little finger back 90 deg
- Able to put hands flat on the floor when bending forward
- Able to bend your thumb back onto your wrist
- Able to hyper extend your knees and elbows past 0 deg
What can hypermobility cause?
Hypermobility often causes a person to sprain joints very easily. If you have had multiple ankle or wrist sprains, or are able to dislocate or ‘pop out’ your joints such as your shoulders, knees, hips and fingers easily, this may be a sign of hypermobility. Having persistent back or neck pain can also be an indicator.
Hypermobility can also affect the nervous system. This is because it runs down either side of our spine, and if our spine is very flexible it can put pressure on the nerves causing them to become overactive. Nervous system signs include symptoms of the ‘fight or flight’ response such as: fatigue, low blood pressure, heart palpitations, dizziness/fainting, nausea, migraine/headache, IBS, allergies/rash, as well as depression and anxiety. As you can see these conditions are non-specific and could have a number of causes so it is best to consult your GP or physiotherapist if you suffer from any of these symptoms.
What can you do about it?
Just because your joints are a bit looser than normal, doesn’t mean this can’t be managed well by a physiotherapist. Muscles are the active structures that support our joints on top of the ligamentous support. And luckily, we are able to build up and strengthen our muscles to make up for the lack of support from ligaments. Your physiotherapist will assess your specific muscle weaknesses and give you exercises to perform at home or at the gym, to manage your joint pain and try to prevent further injuries. You can also join our Clinical Pilates program to do your exercises in the clinic under the watchful guidance of a physiotherapist so that we can make sure you are getting the most out of your exercises.
Chloe Burger, Physiotherapist