“Wow, you’re so flexible!”
“I wish I could touch my toes like that”
“Why does your knee bend backwards like that?”
If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard those phrases……but being really flexible is normal for me. I’ve had a few comments from Physios and Osteopaths in the past about having hypermobile knee and elbow joints but I’d never really thought twice about it, plus none of those doctors seemed that concerned. I had always just put it down to my 20 years of stretching in ballet classes. Only recently, since becoming a PT I’ve started to look further into what it means to be hypermobile and how people with hypermobility can still exercise safely.
So what is Hypermobility?
Hypermobility is the term used to describe the ability to move joints beyond the normal range of movement. Sometimes it’s referred to as being ‘double jointed’. This means the joint has excessive laxity or a lack of integrity of the tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons) that support the joint. It is more common in children, adolescents and females but it tends to lessen with age. For a small percentage of the population though, hypermobility can also be a sign of a more serious, often genetic underlying conditions known as Heritable Disorders of Connective Tissue (HDCT) such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or Marfan Syndrome.
How do I know if I am Hypermobile?
The Beighton Scale is used by health professionals to diagnose Hypermobility. A point is scored for each joint that can execute the following positions. A score of 5 or greater indicates hypermobility syndrome.
Being hypermobile isn’t just about being flexible, it can also cause a great amount of joint pain and sprains, put you at risk of joint dislocations, subluxations and clinking, and tendon injuries. Knowing how to keep your joints safe while exercising should be your number one priority every time you workout.
Some tips for keeping safe while exercising when you have hypermobile joints.
- Stay away from end range of motion. Don’t lock out your knees or elbows. Leave a slight bend in knees on stiff legged deadlifts and slight bend in elbows at the top of a push-up.
- Complete slow and controlled movements. Teaching your muscles to have greater control will ultimately create better joint stability, rather than just relying on your bone structures to support the movement.
- Don’t go crazy with static stretches. Just because you can overextend your muscles, doesn’t mean you should. You don’t want to loosen up muscles too much and create further instability around your joints. Use a foam roller instead.