We all know that one person who can pop their thumb out of place, bend their fingers back almost as far as they can bend them forward, or contort their limbs in a way that can seem completely unnatural. Commonly referred to as being double-jointed, this is actually a result of a condition known as hypermobility.
For most people with the condition, hypermobility will not cause any pain or result in any medical complications, and it becomes little more than a parlour trick. But in some cases, hypermobility can have certain risks associated with it, or it can be a symptom of another condition. Hypermobility often goes hand-in-hand with Down Syndrome for example, which can cause toddlers to move and settle in improper ways as they grow. But with early intervention, parents can encourage their kids to sit and move properly, and avoid many of the potential future complications.
Although still comparatively uncommon, there are certain risk factors of hypermobility, arguably the most serious of which is scoliosis. In one retrospective study of comorbidities (when multiple conditions occur together), 70% of patients with a condition known as Osteogenesis imperfecta (weak bones) also had joint hypermobility, and 26% had scoliosis. While the study concluded that hypermobility could not predict the presence of scoliosis, the figure of 26% is three times the average of the general population, meaning a person with hypermobility is much more susceptible to developing scoliosis.
Apart from the ability to extend joints beyond the normal range of motion, the only notable symptom of hypermobility is pain in the fingers and joints, particularly the elbows, hips, and knees. If such pain occurs, painkillers or anti-inflammatories may be used. After pain, the only remaining complication of hypermobility is the increased risk of injury. While many people with hypermobility will often relish the ability the move their body parts further than normal, the typical range of motion exists to prevent us from injuring ourselves, whether that be by pulling muscles too far, twisting our body in different directions, or simply falling over. When people have the ability to go further than normal, it can often take them outside of the safe zone, which is why they are more likely to suffer such injuries. Thankfully, these injuries are not usually major medical threats, although it is best for hypermobile people to take precautions and train to move in a way that minimises these risks.
For most people with hypermobility, the condition will never really be much of a problem. But when it comes to your medical wellbeing, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If you are hypermobile, you should visit your doctor if you haven’t already. They can examine you for any early signs of scoliosis, or advise you of any body parts that may be at risk of injury. In most cases, you will have nothing to worry about, but if there could be a problem, identifying it as early as possible will give you the best chance of dealing with it.