Are you often called clumsy? Trip, sprain, stumble, get tired easily when standing, look down whilst walking? Then you may be hypermobile – double jointed! This is a blog that I have wanted to write for a few years now and is a syndrome that I’m fascinated with and am constantly learning about. Now I need to point out that I am not a specialist or a doctor, I am a Pilates instructor. Hypermobility was a fairly small subject in my training, and I learnt the fundamental points from being careful to not hyperextend joints and looking more at stabilising. Over the last 9 years it has become a larger factor then I ever would have thought and an increasingly fascinating subject to me in my career.
Very few, and I mean hardly any of my clients know that they are hypermobile! They have never been told this and usually think that its normal to have repeated sprains or falls. Maybe not realising that not everyone stares at the floor when they walk and that its normal to get tired and achy easily especially when standing for long periods. They may struggle with coordination and things like racket sports. Often not feeling stretches or finding it hard to feel muscle engagement when exercising.
The statistics are that approximately 1 in 5 women are hypermobile and I have found this to be scarcely accurate. In my classes of 15 usually 3 are indeed presenting symptoms of this syndrome. Interestingly it is rare in men and over the years I have only taught 1 gentleman who was exceptionally hypermobile.
So, what is it? Simply put its being double jointed. One or several joints can be effected and are vulnerable to hyperextending. Ligaments don’t support the joints well as they are effectively too pliable and stretchy. Some people have only a few joints effected whereas others present throughout the body.
What’s the big problem with this? This is the question that fuels my interest and work with my clients. The main and obvious answer is injury. When someone with hypermobile ankles treads on uneven ground they are in danger of ‘falling out the side door’ whereas my ankle would give a little twist then rewrite itself on the next step, someone who is hypermobile will effectively buckle as the joint gives way to the side. This is due the ligaments not helping the joint to hold up! Dislocations are also a big risk with knees being the big contender. Over the years I’ve found more unobvious problems emerging with an over curve of the upper spine – Kyphosis in the upper lumber spine/cervical neck region. This, I believe, is due to a lifetime of staring down at the ground whilst walking and moving around, not just due to poor posture! Effecting taller clients more then shorter! This is something that needs to be addressed as soon a possible with posture and scapular retraction and strengthening exercises. It is simply not practical or safe to ask someone with hypermobility to look up whilst walking!
There are many things that people can do to help their hypermobile symptoms through practice like Pilates to improve balance, strengthen your core, improve stabilising muscles and to work on spinal alignment and joint rehabilitation. If you have an injury that keeps happening I urge you to strengthen the surrounding muscles around the effected area in order to offer the joint more support. If practicing activities that focus on deep stretching, be careful to not over stretch or hyper extend (bend Backwards) your joints, think more about controlling the stretch! More care is needed when walking on uneven ground or icy conditions and whilst playing sports. I’m afraid to say footwear is also very important and high heels are not your friend!
If this article has rung true with you then focus on how you can help your main symptoms and feel free to reach out to me, I would love to hear from you if you suffer with hypermobility and have any questions!