I was born “double jointed”. From an early age I realized that my skinny body could shape itself in unique and curious ways. I had a natural affinity for yoga (which my mother taught) and at a later age moved on to gymnastics and the martial arts. The challenge in these disciplines was never mobility or flexibility but rather strength and stability.
This post explores hypermobility.
There are many different forms of this phenomenon – some dangerous and potentially life threatening and some are largely harmless. The hypermobility syndromes are genetic expressions which affect the quality and preponderance of different types of collagen in our bodies. Collagen is a key building block in our connective tissues. There are different kinds of collagen with different amounts of “elastifying” or stiffness promoting components in them. Some of the hypermobility syndromes require a vigilant eye and medical management. However, the one which I am focusing on here, the so-called congenital hypermobility syndrome does not.
One of my intentions in writing this is to dispel the myth that hypermobility is always associated with pain or disability. It is not. I have enjoyed wonderfully good musculoskeletal and general health. And have enjoyed my body and living my life through my body. As always though “Knowledge is Power.”
The ligaments, fascias and other sleeve like structures (capsules) around our joints keep movement in check and prevent us from dislocating or subluxing (partially dislocating) our joints. They form a fail-safe alongside the shape of the joints and the muscular forces to keep our bodies intact. Normally our joints allow for the ranges of motion that allows us to perform our required daily tasks and functional movements. People can be tight or limited in their ranges of motion or have excessive ranges of motion. Both these poles of range expression can have repercussions on our lives and health.
Those of us with hypermobility syndromes are lax or loose through multiple joints and areas in our bodies. Sometimes this can result in problems. Though it also can account for feats of athletic and performance prowess which can boggle the mind. There are clinical tools (questionnaires and assessments) which may be used to assess if one has hypermobility or not, and from there there are broad management strategies based on what is found.
The broad strokes for someone with hypermobility follows:
– There needs to be an emphasis on lifelong strength and stability. There are many old men and women with hypermobility syndrome who have maintained their disciplines (such as yoga, contortion and martial arts) throughout their lifespan and who are no more prone to joint difficulties than normal population. Joints should always be strengthened throughout their ranges of movement.
– Sports or activities like dance, acrobatics, gymnastics should always emphasize strength and conditioning for hypermobile participants.
– Co morbid (co-existing) conditions in hypermobility include anxiety and borderline hyperventilation syndrome. These need to be discussed and lifestyle and therapeutic (preferably drug-free) possibilities need to be explored. It may be that these factors are as significant in causing pain as the hypermobility itself.
– Treatment options when sprains and strains occur need to be appropriate, not terrifying or pathologizing! I can think of a number of parents who have been terrified by therapists saying things like your “child will always be in pain because of their hypermobility”. Rather focussing on building health and capacity through compassionate means.
– There are no absolutes. Many think that yoga or acrobatics are an absolute no-no for us bendys. The truth is far more nuanced. Any activity practiced respectfully and with awareness of appropriate strength and conditioning can be safe and non-injurious.
If there are queries pertaining to hypermobility or if you or your child need clinical assistance or a strategy to manage your hypermobility, please contact Dr “Bendy”.