Hypermobility Syndrome

Hypermobility Syndrome

29 September, 2013

What is it?

Hypermobility syndrome is a term used to describe overly mobile joints which occurs as a result of the protein collagen being more flexible than usual. Hypermobility varies on a spectrum of different severities, some with more serious complications these include Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Marfans syndrome. The other end of the spectrum has milder consequences that are not life-threatening such as benign hypermobility joint syndrome (BHJS). The term benign hypermobility joint syndrome (BHJS) is a common source of joint or muscle complaints that often cause concern for parents, children and school personnel.  Benign hypermobility describes a child that has several joints that are more flexible than usual. This happens when the connective tissue which makes up the joint structures (capsule and ligaments) is more compliant (easier to stretch) than usual.
Hypermobility can be a common source of joint or muscle complaints causing fatigue, pain and possible injury. Generalised joint hypermobility is quite a common occurrence – in fact, it is just a normal variation in the way joints are put together. Most ballet dancers and gymnasts have a degree of joint hypermobility – which means that you can be hypermobile, strong, active and fit.

What causes generalised joint hypermobility?

The degree of compliance (stretchiness) in connective tissue is genetically determined. Between 10 and 20% of people have connective tissue that is less stiff than usual.
So some degree of joint hypermobility can be viewed as part of the normal variation in the degree of compliance in the connective tissue within the population.  However, some experts argue that all joint hypermobility is due to an abnormality in the connective tissue.
Children with generalised joint hypermobility will usually have a parent or other close relative with hypermobility.

How is generalised joint hypermobility (GJH) diagnosed?

If a child has 5 or more joints that are more flexible than usual, he or she can be said to have generalised joint hypermobility.  The movements that are usually considered are finger extension, wrist flexion, elbow extension, hip rotation, knee extension and ankle flexion.

What are the effects of hypermobility syndrome?

For some children the excessive laxity in joints and soft tissues presents with no problems, however, in other cases it may lead to:

How can physiotherapy help hypermobility syndrome?

Some children with hypermobility syndrome will eventually grow out of the associated problems as the supporting ligaments get stronger over time. Other children may have persistent problems and our team of specialist Paediatric Physiotherapists & Occupational Therapists can help to reduce the effects of hypermobility syndrome by:

What you can do

All the difficulties associated with BHJS  can be improved by an exercise programme that trains muscle strength, endurance and flexibility and teaches the child to take on challenges and to keep going when the going gets tough.
It is as simple as that – targeted fitness training is the key
You can support your child by continuing to offer opportunities to develop strength, stability and endurance through play performed in different surroundings and on different surfaces.  exercise in water is beneficial as are activities that promote core strength.
By Kristy Allison
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