As physios we spend a heap of time working with people who are fundamentally stiff. Whether it’s stiff joints, tight muscles or reduced mobility, all can create dysfunction in the body which more often than not will eventually result in pain.
What about the other side of the coin? The hypermobile people. The people with joints that move too much. Those who have ligaments and muscles that are too lax? It’s equally problematic and it’s far more common that many people think.
Generalised joint hypermobility is usually inherited and is more common in females than males. Quite often it’s asymptomatic & people either don’t realise or just accept that they are super flexible and very bendy. Sometimes it’s even desirable… think gymnasts and ballet dancers!
Hypermobility can however be a source of pain for some people & it can pre-dispose you to certain injuries such as dislocations or joint sprains.
How do you know if you are hypermobile?
There is a quick little series of tests called the Beighton Score that you can do right here right now. This is not a proper diagnostic test but more of a guide that can be then used to determine if you are a little bendy bendy and also make a decision as to whether a proper assessment may be warranted.
Give yourself a score of 1 for each of the following that you CAN DO. There is a total of 9 points.
- Touch the floor with your palms flat without bending your knees
- Can you bend your left elbow back past straight? Repeat for your right elbow?
- Sit with your legs out straight. Can you lift your left heel up off the floor to over extend your leg? Repeat for the right leg.
- Can you bend your left thumb back to touch your wrist/forearm? Repeat for the right thumb
- Can you bend your left little finger back past 90 degrees. Repeat for your right little finger.
What was your score out of 9? I scored a big round 0.
If you were able to do any of the above you are considered to have a degree of hypermobility. In a clinical setting your score along with the prevalence of certain symptoms such as joint pain, history of subluxation and/or dislocation of joints can help categorize you into minor, moderate or major hypermobility syndrome.
If you do discover that you are hypermobile it’s absolutely no reason to start panicking.
Exercise is recommended and encouraged, yes you can play sport, yes you can lift weights. There may be some case by case considerations when it comes to higher intensity contact sports such as rugby, for example whether the use of a brace or strapping may be required for extra support. These are questions you can raise with a physio.
Speaking of physios. If you are experiencing pain as a result of your hypermobility it may be time to book in for an assessment. There are techniques and targeted strengthening exercises that can help not only with pain management but with improving stability of surrounding muscles which in turn assists with developing better motor control, strength and proprioception of the joints. This is especially important if you want to be active and play sport. It’s also nice to be educated about the risks that certain sports may present to you as a ‘hypermobile’ individual as well as understanding what to do in the event of a dislocation or sprain. Knowledge is power so you can use your assessment as an opportunity to pick your physio’s brain about any concerns or questions that you may have about what you can, can’t, should and shouldn’t be doing.