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What is Hypermobility?

Young rhythmic gymnast with a double-jointed elbow.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 April 2014
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Hypermobility is a medical condition which is characterized by extremely flexible joints. People with this condition can bend their joints much further than is normal, often being able to do things like bending their thumbs flat against the back of their hands, for example. You may hear someone who has hypoermobility called “double-jointed,” although in fact people with this condition do not have extra joints.

Often, hypermobility presents on its own, and it may be limited to certain joints in the body. The condition may not require any medical treatment, and as the patient ages, his or her joints may become less flexible over time. However, there are some instances when people with hypermobility do need medical treatment, as the condition can accompany other more serious medical conditions, and there are some medical complications associated with hypermobility.

Just because someone with hypermobility can bend his or her joints further than normal doesn't mean that this is a good idea. It is possible to damage muscles, tendons, and other connective tissue with excessive stretching, and the condition is sometimes linked with joint pain and arthritis later in life. Depending on how widespread the weakness in the connective tissue is, someone with hypermobility may be at risk of prolapse, irritable bowel disease, flat feet, easy bruising, and other unfortunate complications.

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There appears to be a genetic component to hypermobility, and around 10% of people are believed to have the condition, to varying degrees. The condition can be caused by a number of factors including weakened muscle tissue, malformed joints, and damage to the bones around the joint. In people with mild hypermobility, the condition simply manifests as extreme elasticity, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

In the event that hypermobility is extreme enough to require medical treatment, most doctors focus on physical therapy which is used to strengthen and tone the joints. Low impact exercise is also used to keep the body fit without putting strain on the joints. By staying fit and toned, patients can keep their connective tissue strong and in good shape; anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed for flareups of pain.

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Discuss this Article

anon311630
Post 6

A friend of mine showed me a way to crack my upper back about 25 years ago and since that time I've adjusted my upper back far too often. Now when I sit on a couch (that is too soft) for a prolonged period, I get extreme upper back pain.

I also get this if I sleep in a twisted way. I wake up in the middle of the night with the same pain. I usually have to lie on the floor or take a very warm shower before the pain goes away. It seems that my joints in the upper back have gotten too loose over the years and move too easily. I'm not sure how to improve this condition. Does anyone else have this problem?

anon289241
Post 5

I wonder if rhythmic gymnasts later in life have joint problems? Maybe they're just really flexible.

anon246486
Post 4

I have hypermobility and all my joints crack constantly. They get a little sore if I don't, but I've learned the problem is sitting around and not moving them enough.

I used to do martial arts and play sport, and when I stopped my joints started getting sore and needing cracking. Stretch a lot and maybe take up yoga, etc. For example, whenever I'm waiting for the kettle to boil, I balance on one leg and stick the other leg out at some weird angle, then move around balancing. I'm getting pretty good at it, plus my joints don't need to be cracked and they don't hurt so much. Hope this helps.

anon124107
Post 2

I am struggling with all of the weak connective tissue, painful back cracking, IBD, frequent bruising. In fact, my whole body feels bruised no matter which way I lie or sit. nothing helps and the doctors just say take this or take this. Hypermobility needs more testing and ways for treatment.

anon23496
Post 1

I was told I had hypermobility by my cardiologist, but he said it was because of my extremely low blood pressure and bad circulation. I have to constantly stretch my entire body, crack my back neck, and whatever joints i can to feel the slightest comfort. i was not prescribed any sort of medical treatment and was told to continue stretching as i am and just to increase my salt and water intake. the symptoms have existed and increased over the years.

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