Are you highly flexible? Do your joints often pop or crack? Were you the kid who could put their legs behind their head as a party trick?
Typically, we think of flexibility as a good thing, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing! Too much flexibility or joint hypermobility can also lead to pain and dysfunction within the body. Joint hypermobility means that your joints are moving beyond their normal limits due to increased ligament laxity.
Joint hypermobility can span a continuum from someone who has increased flexibility, but is asymptomatic, to someone who may dislocate their joints often and have a lot of pain and decreased function because of the hypermobility. Someone may have localized hypermobility, where fewer than five of their joints are hypermobile, or generalized hypermobility, where five or greater joints are hypermobile. Joint hypermobility is a hallmark in two different diagnoses, Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (HSD) and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). For more information on the difference between the two, check out this article.
It can be difficult to diagnose joint hypermobility because people may report tight and stiff muscles and mistakenly believe they are not flexible enough. They may seek massages or try to stretch and stretch with no benefit and quite possibly may feel worse. In this case, the muscles are doing their job and are trying to protect the unstable joint and highly elastic ligaments and therefore tighten up to provide as much stability as possible. When a person stretches or gets a massage, the joint loses the stability that the tight muscle was providing and pain increases. When this occurs, it can be beneficial to work with a PT skilled in treating joint hypermobility to allow the body to gain stability while decreasing muscle tension and improving overall posture and alignment.
Are you wondering if you may have joint hypermobility? There is a simple 9 point scale called the Beighton Scoring System that can assess hypermobility. Check it out here! But remember, this alone does not diagnose anything; it only tells us if you have hypermobile joints or not.
At Intrinsic PT, we are passionate about helping people manage their joint hypermobility. Feel free to reach out with any questions that you may have about it!