Hypermobility disorders, such as joint hypermobility syndrome, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), and hypermobility spectrum disorders (HSD), can be a complex and confusing topic for many. These disorders are characterized by an increased range of motion in joints, often leading to pain and a variety of other symptoms.1 We'll get into the signs and symptoms of hypermobility disorders, explore the challenges of diagnosis, and discuss the Functional Patterns (FP) approach to addressing these conditions.
Understanding Hypermobility Disorder and Hypermobile EDS Symptoms
Hypermobility disorders encompass a range of conditions with varying degrees of joint flexibility. Joint hypermobility refers to increased active or passive movement of a joint beyond its normal range. It is important to note that one can have joint hypermobility without having a hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD).
Hypermobile EDS is the most common type of EDS generally accepted to be rare, affecting 1 in 5,000 people. In recent years, this is being reconsidered to be 10 times more common than estimated in the past.2 Hypermobile EDS presents a more complex range of signs and symptoms that can make it difficult to recognize.3
- Soft, mildly hyperextensible skin
- Frequent subluxations and dislocations, potentially spontaneous or with minimal trauma
- Acute pain associated with dislocations
- Degenerative joint disease
- Chronic pain, separate from joint dislocation-related pain
- Easy bruising
- Digestive issues such as functional bowel disorders
- Heart issues such as cardiovascular autonomic dysfunction
- Psychological dysfunction, psychosocial impairment, and emotional problems
In hypermobile individuals, the hip joint can be particularly affected due to the excessive motion of the joint. This is often caused by loose or weak ligaments and can result in an increased risk of injury to the hip joint.4 Hypermobile hips can lead to various issues, such as instability and pain.
Similarly, hypermobile knees can impact daily activities and overall quality of life. Loose or weak ligaments in the knee joint can contribute to potential problems, such as instability and an increased risk of injury.
The Challenges of Diagnosing Hypermobility Disorders
The complexity of hypermobility disorders, combined with their wide range of signs and symptoms, can make it difficult to distinguish between various hypermobility disorders. This can lead to misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of conditions like EDS. Some conditions can be mistaken for EDS, further complicating the diagnostic process.
To diagnose hypermobility, healthcare professionals often use a series of questions and clinical assessments to determine the extent of joint flexibility. There are five basic questions that can help primary care physicians recognize hypermobility and guide them toward an accurate diagnosis.
Typical Management For People With Hypermobile EDS
Effectively managing and treating hypermobility disorders involve a comprehensive approach tailored to the individual's specific needs and manifestations. Here are some strategies that are typically considered to protect your joints through exercise:3
- Customized programs to address joint instability and muscle imbalances
- Low-resistance exercise focusing on core and extremity muscle tone to improve joint stability
- Maintain good posture
- Keep your knees slightly bent while standing
- Don’t actively approach extreme ranges of motion
- Use arch support to correct for flat feet
- Assistive devices: Braces to improve joint stability or wheelchairs to reduce lower-body stress
These Hypermobile EDS management strategies may help people but are they really the best long term solution? At Functional Patterns we think some of these strategies are good and may have the right goals in mind, but they don’t go far enough.
Functional Patterns and Its Role in Managing Hypermobility Disorders
FP is a unique approach to exercise that focuses on training the body for the activities performed in everyday life. Unlike traditional training methods that isolate individual muscles or body parts, FP aims to optimize the way your body moves as a whole, integrating multiple muscle groups and joints to work in harmony.
FP uses exercises that actively use the muscles to put your joints in specific positions. Tools such as arch supports, braces, and wheelchairs may be useful for extreme contexts. In the majority of contexts, these tools are avoided because they don’t actively engage muscle and instead passively put your joints in a range of motion. We mostly avoid passive manipulation of joints because this doesn’t create long term structural changes.
For individuals with hypermobility disorders, FP can offer a more targeted and effective solution for managing their symptoms. By incorporating exercises that mimic real-world movement patterns, FP can help improve joint stability, reduce pain, and enhance overall functionality. This approach can be particularly beneficial for those with hypermobile joints, such as hips and knees, as it promotes balanced muscle development and strengthens the surrounding ligaments and tendons.
Results by HBS Pablo Martin
Implementing Functional Patterns Techniques for Hypermobility Disorders
FP offers a comprehensive methodology that focuses on addressing imbalances and improving functional movement. To effectively manage hypermobility disorders, individuals can consider incorporating the following FP techniques with a FP Practitioner.
- Assessing and identifying imbalances: Begin by assessing your body's movement patterns and identifying any imbalances that may contribute to joint instability. This assessment can help determine which areas need targeted training to enhance stability and reduce pain.
- Stick to the fundamentals: Although training posture may seem boring at first sight, regressing back to basic exercises such as standing neutral posture can be useful for most people for years.
- Integrating the FP Big 4: Focus on training around the FP Big 4: standing, walking, running, and throwing. At FP, optimizing around these foundational movements is essential for overall functionality and can help promote joint stability in individuals with hypermobility disorders.
Hypermobility disorders can be a challenging and complex topic. However, with a comprehensive understanding of the signs, symptoms, and diagnostic challenges, individuals can take proactive steps to manage their condition and improve their quality of life. The Functional Patterns approach to movement training can be an effective method for addressing the root cause of these disorders, helping to build joint stability, reduce pain, and enhance overall functionality.
As you navigate the complexities of hypermobility disorders, it's essential to stay informed and connected with reputable organizations, research centers, and healthcare professionals who can provide valuable information and guidance on managing these conditions. By incorporating the FP approach to movement training, you can tackle the challenges of hypermobility disorders head-on. This method focuses on addressing the root cause of these disorders through training centered around the FP Big 4: standing, walking, running, and throwing. As you progress in your training, you'll likely experience improved joint stability, reduced pain, and increased functionality in your daily life.
Understanding hypermobility disorders and embracing FP techniques can significantly improve your quality of life. By taking charge of your health and well-being, you can create a brighter, more fulfilling future despite the challenges of living with a hypermobility disorder. Knowledge is power, and with the right tools and resources, you can conquer the obstacles that hypermobility disorders may present.
As a next step, we encourage you to work with a Functional Patterns practitioner near you. Learn more about Stabilizing Hypermobile Joints to take the hypermobility test or visit the Functional Patterns related articles below.
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- "Joint Hypermobility Syndrome." Cleveland Clinic, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21763-joint-hypermobility-syndrome.
- "New Research Shows hEDS and HSD 10 Times More Common Than Previously Thought." The Ehlers-Danlos Society, https://www.ehlers-danlos.org/news/new-research-shows-heds-and-hsd-10-times-more-common-than-previously-thought/.
- Beighton, Peter, et al. "Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Hypermobility Type." GeneReviews, National Center for Biotechnology Information, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1279/.
- Stone, Austin V., et al. "Hip Instability: A Review of Hip Dysplasia and Other Contributing Factors." Frontiers in Surgery, vol. 8, 2021, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fsurg.2021.596971/full.