Table of Contents
Due to our lifestyles, it’s common for people to complain of stiff joints resulting in aches and pains and a limited range of movement to their joints.
This means that all too often many people are searching for stretching and mobility exercises to increase their range of motion and improve their flexibility looking for ways to help alleviate joint and muscle pain.
Recommended Reading – Importance of Stretching After Workout : The Critical Key To Recovery
However, what if the opposite were true and you instead have joints that move beyond what’s considered a normal range of motion. This is what’s known as hyper flexibility.
In this article we’ll look at this condition in more detail, along with the potential causes, complications, and ways to manage hypermobile joints.
What Is Hyper Flexibility?
Hyper flexibility is when a person can move and stretch certain joints through a very broad range of motion. Hypermobile people have very flexible joints and can easily move into positions that others may find difficult, if not impossible.
For example, they may be able to bend their thumb back to the point of touching their wrist. It’s a relatively common condition and affects around 1 in 30 people. It doesn’t necessarily affect every joint within the body.
Depending on a person’s occupation, having very flexible joints can offer some benefits.
Professional ballet dancers, for example, may find performing certain routines that much easier when compared to a dancer who has a normal range of motion.
However, if these hyperflexible joints are also accompanied with joint pain, this is referred to as joint hypermobility syndrome, but many people refer to it as being double-jointed or having loose joints.
What Causes Hypermobility?
Hypermobility tends to be a genetic condition which is passed on through family members and is specifically caused by the genes which are responsible for the production of collagen.
Collagen within the body is vital for overall strength and stability. Those with overtly flexible joints essentially have defective collagen resulting in weakness to the ligaments.
Another cause of extreme flexibility may be down to irregular shaped ends of certain bones within the body. Hyper flexibility could also be a sign of marfan syndrome, which tends to be diagnosed later on in life.
If a person is not both with hyper flexibility but develops it later on in life, it may be a sign of other medical conditions such as polio or lupus.
Is Hypermobility a Bad Thing?
Hypermobility isn’t necessarily a bad thing and in certain circumstances, having hyper flexible joints can be advantageous. That being said, it does come with its own challenges, especially in someone who suffers from hyper mobility syndrome.
The joints affected tend to be more susceptible to injury, such as dislocation. They can also include symptoms such as pain and stiffness which overtime can cause conditions such as bursitis and tendonitis, when may be re-occurring. Even digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) have been reported amongst those with hyper flexibility.
How is Hyper Flexibility Diagnosed?
To diagnose hypermobility, tests are carried out and measured against the Beighton scale. This is a numerical scoring system that ranges from 0 to 9, with the higher number indicating high joint laxity. The typical Beighton score of young people ranges anywhere from between 4 and 6, with anything above 6 potentially being considered as hyper mobile.
A medical professional such as an occupational therapist or manual therapist can carry out a physical exam to determine the flexibility of a person’s joints. An example of these tests could be how far a person can hyper extend their knee joint. In other words, when standing up straight with knees locked out, to what degree can the knee go backwards.
Can Hypermobile People Lift Weights?
Yes, people who have hypermobility of the joints can lift weights and perform other forms of strength-based exercise. However, there are a few factors to consider before performing physical activity with weights.
The vast majority of resistance-based movements require a certain degree of flexibility to be able to perform the exercise efficiently.
For example, if performing a barbell back squat, it’s encouraged to squat down so that your hamstrings are parallel to the ground.
For many, it can be difficult to achieve this depth due to a reduced range of motion to the ankles, hips or knees.
Recommended Reading – 6 Critical Causes For Hip Flexor Pain During Squats
Conversely, for someone with hyper mobile joints, they can reach this depth and beyond quite easily due to their increased joint flexibility. That being said, they are more likely to have joint instability due to weakness of the ligaments and weak muscles.
When performing an exercise with weight, it should be executed with control and stability in order to prevent joint injuries.
For this reason, it’s important to focus on increasing strength to the surrounding muscles without training to full range of motion.
By building strong muscles in a shorter range of motion will lead to increased strength and muscle mass, which in turn can offer better stability to joints.
Essentially, get the muscles stronger before training to your full range of motion.
Having high flexibility of your joints can offer some benefits but regular exercise to improve muscle strength can help to make significant improvements reducing associated pain and the risk of injury to weak joints.
This in turn will help to make everyday activities easier to undertake, and result in a better quality of life.