“I’ve been advised that I’m hypermobile and that I need to improve my joint stability in order to prevent injuries and early onset osteoarthritis”
People with hypermobility are over-flexible and may be able to move parts of their bodies into positions that most others find impossible; if you have been diagnosed with joint hypermobility then some or all of your joints will bend beyond the optimum range.
Hypermobility is thought to be common, particularly in children and young people; around one in every five people in the UK may have hypermobile joints. Often people don’t realise they are hypermobile but use their increased flexibility to advantage to excel at activities such as gymnastics, dance and swimming.
However hypermobile people can also be more susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries such as sprains and muscle/tendon tears, or to dislocations of joints. Most hypermobile people respond to treatment when young, although they may take longer to heal, while others may only partially recover and go on to re-injure the same joint and/or other joints in the body. But left unmanaged long-term, hypermobility can eventually result in chronic joint problems, starting with early onset wear and tear of joints that leads to osteoarthritis and potentially joint replacement relatively early in life.
Some people with joint hypermobility suffer from additional symptoms, such as long-term pain, chronic fatigue, recurrent sprains, joint dislocations, digestive issues, hernias, and varicose veins. Hypermobile people with these additional symptoms may be subsequently diagnosed with a hypermobility syndrome. Joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS) is the most common hypermobility syndrome, and is widely believed to be a feature of the connective tissue condition Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).
What causes joint hypermobility?
Understanding what causes hypermobility can help you to manage the condition and thereby limit long-term damage. These four factors generally contribute to joint hypermobility:
Ligaments: ligaments, bands of fibrous material with limited elasticity, connect each joint in the body and are designed to control its direction and the range of movement, to maintain joint stability. In hypermobile people the collagen that forms the ligaments may be genetically altered, resulting in ligaments that are weaker and too easily stretched; as a result the joints are unstable and can bend beyond their optimum range.
Joints: the type of joint defines its direction and range of movement. The shapes of the bones where they meet to form a joint also contribute to range of movement. Unusually shaped bones, such as shallow hip or shoulder sockets will allow the joint to move beyond its optimum range and allow a greater risk of dislocation.
Muscle tone: the muscles that control joint movement also provide significant joint stability if they are maintained in a healthy condition. Poor muscle tone and/or weak muscles allow more passive movement in joints.
Proprioception: proprioception or “position sense” allows us to control our limbs without directly looking at them. Some hypermobile people experience difficulty in sensing the position of a joint unless they can see it, and so may habitually move their joints outside of their optimum range.
The first two causes, ligament and joint issues, are likely to be congenital, inherited from birth.
However, both muscle tone and proprioception can be significantly improved with the appropriate treatment and exercises.
Improved muscle tone and proprioception, together with understanding and awareness, can be used to help you to manage your hypermobility condition by improving joint stability and helping to protect the affected joints from accelerated long-term damage.
So, the positive message we can give you if you suffer from hypermobility is that finding the right combination of successful strategies can provide long-term benefits – at the Sogunro Practice we have the experience and expertise to help you make that change.
Applied Pilates – how can we help?
Every individual arrives with different degrees of strength, hypermobility, proprioception depending on age, genetics, type of daily activities, fitness level, and these cannot be improved by giving everyone a generic routine. This is why Applied Pilates is different.
During your initial assessment and your subsequent exercise sessions we actively assess your strength, mobility and proprioception, both at rest and during movement. This tells us which of your muscles need strengthening, which muscles are tight and how mobile your major joints are, and from this we develop your personal Applied Pilates routine. Applying the right exercises strengthens the muscles that stabilise your joints and improves flexibility of tight muscles. This provides balanced muscles on each side of your joints for stability.
Osteolates – how can we help?
Osteolates soft tissue treatment techniques can prepare the muscles so they are able to respond to and maximise the benefits of doing the right Applied Pilates exercises. During a muscle function improvement programme it is essential for us to get the correct balance between mobility and strengthening to achieve stability at each major joint. Osteolate treatments provide a controlled way to resolve muscle, tendon and ligament issues that become apparent as your exercise programme progresses. We have found over the years that clients who combine Applied Pilates exercises with occasional Osteolates soft tissue treatments improve muscle function and therefore joint stability more quickly.
In addition, for those clients who suffer from more severe hypermobility syndromes such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), we can employ Osteolates treatments that improve circulation in specific areas to address both chronic and acute pain.
Other advice we provide for you
We can show you the difference between optimum range and extreme range of flexibility, and advise where you are on that scale. We can help you to better manage your hypermobility by understanding the underlying causes, recognising which of these you can improve, giving you realistic and appropriate objectives to help you improve and maintain your joint stability safely.