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Hypermobility

Hypermobility literally means ‘more movement’. With hypermobility, ligaments are relaxed and the joints they support are more flexible and move easily beyond the normal range expected for that joint.

Hypermobility isn’t an illness or a disease and, as such, can’t be ‘cured’. It’s just the way someone is made and often runs in families. Young people tend to be more flexible than adults and most people find their joints stiffen as they get older. A small percentage of people remain very flexible.

Young people who are hypermobile may have taken longer to achieve walking and are more likely to have used bottom shuffling rather than crawling. Other common difficulties include:

  • Clumsiness and falls
  • Flat feet
  • Clicky joints
  • Tiredness
  • Reluctance to walk longer distances
  • Pain
  • Difficulty with handwriting, dressing and holding a knife and fork

Many hypermobile people experience no symptoms or difficulties. It’s not clear why some people have more symptoms than others, and it’s not necessarily due to the level of hypermobility. It’s believed that problems are related to poor muscle strength, poor muscle stamina and poor control of joints, not the hypermobility itself.

As symptoms are understood to be related to weaker muscles and less stable joints, muscles need to work harder. It’s therefore important to focus on being healthy, strong and fit. The stronger and fitter you are, the better. Maintaining a healthy weight is also important in reducing stress on your muscles and joints.

Work on being strong and fit.

Do some low impact activities as they place less stress on your joints and muscles:

  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai chi

 

If you visit the gym, stick with equipment such as:

  • Exercise bike
  • Treadmill
  • Cross trainer
  • Rowing machine
  • Avoid weights, especially free weights that place increased strain on your joints

Other things to think about:

  • Footwear: supportive footwear will be beneficial especially if you have flat feet - when buying shoes look for:
    • Shoes that are stiff around the heel
    • A sturdy sole to act as a shock absorber
    • Soft uppers, preferably with laces or buckles, that support the whole foot
    • Boots that fasten with laces are often effective and comfortable, offering additional support around the ankle
    • If you have insoles or orthotics, take them with you when buying new shoes
  • Bags: when choosing a bag for school/college, choose either ‘cross body’ bags or rucksack type bags with padded straps – other things to consider:
    • Don’t wear your bag dangling over one shoulder, this will cause uneven loading on your spine
    • Don’t carry more than you need – if you have access to a locker – use it
    • When packing your bag, put the heaviest things in first to make you more balanced
    • If you notice red marks on your shoulders after wearing the bag, or any tingling or numbness in your hands/arms, this is an indication the bag is too heavy

If you experience muscle pain after exercise or activity, don’t stop being active; try pacing your activity. Pacing means gradually increasing an activity to achieve a goal. Don’t do too much activity on one day; spread it out throughout the week and focus on building muscle strength and fitness.

Building muscle strength takes time and practice. Don’t expect to see changes in the first few weeks.

Aches and pains associated with hypermobility are usually a result of muscle fatigue, not damage or injury. A warm bath or hot water bottle may help. Pain killers aren’t usually effective.

Work on being strong and fit.

Do some low impact activities as they place less stress on your joints and muscles:

  • Swimming
  • Cycling
  • Walking
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai chi

If you visit the gym, stick with equipment such as:

  • Exercise bike
  • Treadmill
  • Cross trainer
  • Rowing machine
  • Avoid weights, especially free weights that place increased strain on your joints

Other things to think about:

  • Footwear: supportive footwear will be beneficial especially if you have flat feet - when buying shoes look for:
    • Shoes that are stiff around the heel
    • A sturdy sole to act as a shock absorber
    • Soft uppers, preferably with laces or buckles, that support the whole foot
    • Boots that fasten with laces are often effective and comfortable, offering additional support around the ankle
    • If you have insoles or orthotics, take them with you when buying new shoes
  • Bags: when choosing a bag for school/college, choose either ‘cross body’ bags or rucksack type bags with padded straps – other things to consider:
    • Don’t wear your bag dangling over one shoulder, this will cause uneven loading on your spine
    • Don’t carry more than you need – if you have access to a locker – use it
    • When packing your bag, put the heaviest things in first to make you more balanced
    • If you notice red marks on your shoulders after wearing the bag, or any tingling or numbness in your hands/arms, this is an indication the bag is too heavy

If you experience muscle pain after exercise or activity, don’t stop being active; try pacing your activity. Pacing means gradually increasing an activity to achieve a goal. Don’t do too much activity on one day; spread it out throughout the week and focus on building muscle strength and fitness.

Building muscle strength takes time and practice. Don’t expect to see changes in the first few weeks.

Aches and pains associated with hypermobility are usually a result of muscle fatigue, not damage or injury. A warm bath or hot water bottle may help. Pain killers aren’t usually effective.

If you have been experiencing frequent or severe pain, contact your GP.

For difficulties with every day activities, an Occupational Therapist might be able to help.