Can You be Too Flexible?
- Hyperflexibility in a joint means you can extend a joint beyond the normal range expected for that particular joint.
- Being abnormally flexible may indicate a disorder of connective tissue, sometimes called hypermobility.
- Often, people with this have a childhood history of doing funky things with their body (such as clicking joints out of place or putting feet behind the head). Very commonly they enjoy participating in yoga or circus-style acrobatics.. because doing these exercises/poses is not difficult.
- Other indicators may include easy dislocation, sprains or strains. Pain in the knees, fingers, hips, and elbows is more likely if there has been excessive stretching or injuries.
- Sometimes there are no symptoms – this is more likely in older adults, especially if you’ve not been particularly acrobatic, which allows for a bit of stiffening of the joint capsules.
- Treatments are customized for each individual based on his or her particular manifestations.
How do I Know if my Joints are “Hypermobile”, not just “Very Flexible”?
Symptoms of joint hypermobility include:
- Pain in joints, such as knees, fingers, hips, and elbows
- Susceptiblity to injury, such as joint dislocation and sprains of involved joints
- Scoliosis (curvature of the spine), which can lead to back pain
While people with normal flexible joints have often had to work at it – gently and gradually stretching so that, over time, they can move more freely, those with hypermobile joints have no problem with some of these stretches.
Joint hypermobility tends to decrease with aging as we become naturally less flexible, as long as the joints are not constantly stressed.
Signs of hypermobility disorders include the ability to:
- Place the palms of the hands on the floor with the knees fully extended
- Hyperextend knees or elbow beyond 10 degrees
- Touch the thumb to the forearm.
How Common is Joint Hypermobility?
Joint hypermobility commonly runs in families, as it is genetic.
Approximately 3% of the general population have hypermobility syndrome. Many are undiagnosed.
This may be higher in young people – one estimate is that up to 10-15% of children have hypermobile joints or joints that can move beyond the normal range of motion. These joints are sometimes referred to as “loose” and affected people may be referred to as being “double jointed”.
It is not unccommon to see higher numbers of people with hypermobility disorders participating in sports or the arts that require a higher degree of flexbility, such as yoga, dance, gymnastic, and acrobatics. They simply find these poses and postures easier than most folk!
What Else Might a Person with Hypermobility Experience?
Not uncommon are a number of other symptoms or problems. The most common ones include:
- Skin changes
- Food intolerances or allergic responses to some foods
- Digestive disturbances – constipation is quite common
- Recurring, or chronic small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO)
- Impaired autonomic reflexes. This includes a large list of possible symptoms, or other conditions, such as Raynaud’s, abnormal sweating, altered heart rate with postural changes and others.
- Prolapses (e.g. of bladder, uterus or other tissues)
- Endometriosis and other uterine disorders
- Super-stretchy skin
- Stretch marks in unusual places (e.g., elbows, chest, under the arms, and on the inner thigh)
- Easy bruising or unusual scars
What Causes Hypermobility Syndromes?
Hypermobility common runs in families. This is because it is a genetic, and therefore inherited, disorder. There are many different genes that code for the production of collagen in the body and the different presentations depend on which genes are affected.
What Can be Done to Help Hypermobility Conditions?
Sometimes a person with hypermobility has no symptoms and requires no treatment. Overtime, and with conservative management symptoms can improve with time. This menas NOT doing things that stretch or put strain on the joints. Treatments, when necessary, are tailored for each person according to their symptoms.
- Herbal medicine for joint pain or inflammation
- Coaching to ensure optimal physical fitness while avoiding injury to joints
- Support for digestive function requires a comprehensive approach to address constipation, food reactions and so on.