Hi everyone– I know I touched upon this topic in my last post, but I thought it might be a good idea to go a little bit more in-depth on joint hypermobility in its own post, for people who need more information on it.
Okay. So what are hypermobile joints?
Every joint in the human body has to strike a balance between allowing us to move and providing stability.
There are many different subcategories of joint. Some joints allow a great degree of motion; others barely move at all. It all depends on where the joint is in the body, and what function it is supposed to serve.
Depending on its intended purpose, each joint has a healthy range of motion that it is meant to function within.
Just as every individual has a different thumbprint, so too does every individual have his or her own skeleton. Some people have joints that are a little less stable than they ought to be. They don’t necessarily stay within their intended range of motion, which can create problems.
I personally didn’t get lucky in the genetic lottery, when it comes to the shape of my bones and the way they come together to form a joint.
Basically, my bones are shaped in a way that allows them slide towards or away from each other more than nature intended. This means my joints don’t always stay within the range of motion they are supposed to have.
As a result, I end putting way too much stress on the other structures in my body that were meant to hold my joints in place– namely, the ligaments that connect the bones together, and the cartilage and joint capsules that are meant to cushion the space between.
I know this because I was diagnosed as having hypermobile joints by my orthopedist (the same one who performed my compartment syndrome surgery). He told me that I was basically going to be at a higher risk of injury for my entire life, and that the best precaution would be to make sure I kept all my muscles strong.
Having strong muscles can make up for a lot and help take some of that extra pressure of off the ligaments and other support structures.
This is why, despite having hypermobile joints, I was able to run 40 miles a week for years in high school.
Once I lost muscle strength from having compartment syndrome, however, that’s when everything changed. I wasn’t able to exercise much in the years before I decided to have surgery. Over time, I did start to experience pain in many different parts of my body, due to my hypermobile joints. It’s a big part of why I developed knee problems (chondromalacia patella) as well as sacroiliac joint dysfunction).
Now, having hypermobile joints isn’t the end of the world, but it is something to be aware of. Now that I know about it, I have to make sure I stay strong. (And that, my friends, is why I love aquatic exercise so much, because it eliminates so many of the risks of land-based exercise).
It was a big factor in why I didn’t pursue prolotherapy for sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
I went to consult Dr. Borg-Stein, a well-respected doctor in my area, to see if prolotherapy might help to stabilize the ligaments of my SI joints. However, once I told her exactly how mobile my SI joints were, and how I really had no way of guaranteeing they’d even be able stay in place on the car ride home from getting my injections, her jaw dropped. I got the feeling that no one had ever said that to her before, and that my SI joints were possibly the most hypermobile of any patient she’d encountered.
In fact, the car thing made Dr. Borg-Stein totally change her mind about whether or not I’d be a good candidate for prolotherapy. She had been ready to set up an appointment, but as she explained, if my ligaments were to tighten up with the joint in the wrong position, it actually could make things worse. (Prolotherapy is an injection that makes the ligaments tighten up). So, that was the end of that for me.
Other causes of hypermobile joints– Connective Tissue Disorders (CTD’s)
Another reason people might have hypermobile joints is if they are born with a genetic condition that impairs their body’s ability to maintain the soft tissue structures that are meant to support a joint. Unfortunately, this means that their joints can become progressively hypermobile over time.
The distinction here is that CTD’s don’t have anything to do with bone shape. Someone with a CTD may actually have bones that come together to form what is technically a more “stable” joint. However, if they do not have strong ligaments and other connective tissues to hold those bones together, their joint will not end up being stable.
I also highly recommend the blog Jelly-Like Joints, which is written by someone living with a connective tissue disorder. She does a really great job describing what her life is like, as well as providing scientific explanations of her condition.
However, just to reiterate, I’m fortunate enough not to have such a condition. My connective tissue is normal– I just got unlucky with the shape of my joints.
That’s all I have to say on this topic for now. For some related posts, you can check out:
Hope this was helpful!