Although movement is usually what we strive to improve in clinic, hypermobility can be a problem. If a joint moves too far, usually because the ligaments are more lax than normal, the joint may be injured more easily. Local muscles will also work harder to control the joint.
Benign Hypermobility Syndrome is where joints are unusually mobile, but not as a result of another condition. Your osteopath can test your joints to get an idea of whether you are generally hypermobile. The image above shows the 9 points that are tested with the Beighton Scale. This is a quick test in which your osteopath asks you to perform a selection of movements to their fullest range. We then have a score out of 9 that gives a rough idea of your general mobility.
This does not test every joint, so you may have localised mobility that is not tested, giving you a misleading score of 0. Your osteopath will take this into account, assessing the problematic area in more depth and noting the area’s mobility. We also consider that demographic factors influence what is a “normal” range of movement. Women are generally more mobile than men, and mobility reduces with age.
Other Problems and Hypermobility
Muscular problems like torticollis may be more frequent for someone with a hypermobile neck. Sports injuries affecting the soft tissues of muscles, ligaments, and cartilage can also be more frequent. Repetitive throwing is associated with shoulder labrum tears, but if there is higher demand on the labrum to stabilise a hypermobile shoulder, this is more demanding again. Generally, joints that are overworked by excessive movement may also be more prone to developing osteoarthritis.
Some connective tissue disorders, such as Ehlers Danlos can cause one or multiple joints to be unusually mobile. Local hypermobility can also be caused by an injury. A dislocated shoulder will likely always have a degree of ligamentous laxity. However, this is not to say that there is nothing that can be done about it.
Managing Hypermobile Joints
Your osteopath can advise you of the exact treatment plan that is most appropriate for you. In most cases, a good start is to strengthen the local muscles. The aim of this is to support the joint more easily, as stronger muscles are more able to comfortably limit the excess movement. We can work with your ability, interest, and goals to support your strengthening. Whether you have access to a gym, equipment at home, or the most basic set of weights or bands, we can find a routine for you.
Osteopaths look at the body as a whole, so we will also look for areas that are moving too little. It might seem counterintuitive at first, but when one area moves too easily, another can get away with moving less than it should. As a result, a cycle can develop in which one joint becomes even more hypermobile, and another becomes very stiff. We work to prevent or break these cycles.