What Are Hypermobility Syndromes?
A hypermobile joint can bend beyond the typical range of movement. Many people are hypermobile (around 1 in 10) – and hypermobility is more common in women and children, and people of Afro-Caribbean and Asian descent. It is common in gymnasts, athletes, dancers and musicians. Many hypermobile people have no significant symptoms (‘asymptomatic hypermobility’).
For a smaller number of people hypermobility is accompanied by symptoms (symptomatic hypermobility).
Symptomatic hypermobility can be due to:
A. Specific heritable disorders of connective tissue, like Ehlers-Danlos syndromes, Marfan syndrome, Stickler syndrome, osteogenesis imperfecta and others.
B. Joint shape, looser ligaments, or poor muscle tone (without a connective tissue disorder)
C. Other conditions (like Down’s syndrome, Cerebral Palsy etc)
D. Injury or repeated stretching/training (for example in yoga enthusiasts and gymnasts)
We would say that people within groups A and B have a hypermobility syndrome.
Many symptoms are common to people with hypermobility syndromes (and to a lesser extent with people in groups C and D). These may include: Pain (both acute and ‘chronic’), fatigue, dislocations or subluxations (where a joint slips partially out of place), frequent injuries (including micro traumas – slight injuries which may not show up on tests or MRIs, but can occur repeatedly in the same area of connective tissue without completely healing), constipation, reflux and other digestive issues, pelvic floor and bladder issues, fragile skin, and easy bruising. There are also symptoms and features unique to the different hypermobility syndromes.
Common symptoms are often not obvious, and can include:
Joint instability and hyper-extension, sprains, strains, subluxations, and/or dislocations
Stomach and digestive problems (like reflux and slow stomach emptying)
Bladder and bowel problems
Autonomic dysfunction Including postural tachycardia syndrome (e.g. dizziness, fainting, light-headedness, difficulty regulating temperature)
Poor wound healing
Long term (persistent) pain
Stretchy or soft skin
Hypermobile patients recovering from covid19 may well become symptomatic. Our resources are applicable to and appropriate for them – regardless of whether an HDCT has been identified or not.
Symptoms vary a lot between people, and also vary over time for each individual. It is common for hypermobility to become symptomatic after something changes that tips the hypermobile body from ‘can cope’ to ‘can’t cope’. This can be triggered by many things, including injury, illness (including COVID 19), stress, pregnancy, or changes in activity levels, job, or home life.
Some conditions which often exist alongside hypermobility include: Autism, autonomic dysfunction, mast cell activation disorders, anxiety and depression and fibromyalgia. Research is still ongoing into exactly how these conditions might be linked to hypermobility.
There is no cure for being hypermobile, but there are many things that can help manage symptoms. With the right management, many hypermobile people will find that their lives improve - sometimes beyond what they thought was possible.