Hypermobility is the term used to describe the ability to move joints beyond their normal expected range of movement. It is a common condition in the general population, and may be present in just a few joints or widespread across the body. It is most common in females, and children and adolescence. The effects of hypermobility tend to lessen with age.
However, for a small portion of the population, hypermobility can be symptomatically associated by joint and ligamentous injuries, pain, fatigue and autonomic and other organ dysfunctions. This is normally a diagnosable hereditary disorder of connective tissue; including but not limited to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Marfan Syndrome, Osteogenesis Imperfecta and Stickler Syndrome.
In a hypermobile person, the body’s connective tissue proteins (collagen and fibrinogen) that give the body stability are affected. A person’s joints have laxity as they have more-stretchy connective tissues; particularly in soft tissues such as ligaments and tendons (joint stabilisers). As a result, hypermobile people can easily injury soft tissues around their joints, can twist or easily over-extend joints, and may sublux (partially dislocate) or fully dislocate a joint. Recovery from these injuries are normally slower for hypermobile persons due to the poorer quality of connective tissues for healing and may continue to repetitively injure various parts of the body. This can result in both acute, immediate post-injury pain, as well as longer-term persistent, chronic pain syndromes including fibromyalgia and functional neurological disorder.
Connective tissue can be found in all areas of the body, and as such the skin and other internal organs can also be affected. This may include other problems with the gastrointestinal system, the autonomic nervous system, and problems with bladder function. Symptoms and associated fatigue levels can vary daily based on everyday activities.
Physiotherapy can help hypermobile disorders by providing manual therapies to aid in initial pain management of acute injuries, as well as ongoing strength and conditioning, body awareness and motor control to improve your symptoms. Improving body awareness, control over joints through range and core stability will help your long-term management and reduce your overall pain.
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