In my recent posts, I’ve been talking about how, in my 30’s, I finally learned that I have a genetic hypermobility condition. My body produces connective tissue differently than a “normal” person. As a result, my ligaments, tendons, and other connective tissues are a little bit “stretchier” than they’re supposed to be.
For most of my life, I never knew I had a problem. Partly, that’s because hypermobility is still so under-recognized in the medical field. The other reason is that, at points in my life when I had a good baseline of muscle strength, it was able to make up for my connective tissue not being super strong.
How does this relate to the SI joint?
The reason I started writing about genetic hypermobility conditions, also referred to as connective tissue disorders, is that this type of condition is often a contributing factor in why someone develops SI joint dysfunction.
In general, if you are genetically hypermobile, it is going to unfortunately be easier for you to develop injuries that involve a ligament sprain and/or altered joint mechanics… such as SI joint dysfunction.
That’s how I know a higher percentage of my readers are likely to be hypermobile, as compared to the average population.
Genetic hypermobility conditions are different from just having one or two joints that are hypermobile.
Technically, the term “hypermobile” simply refers to a joint that has an excessive amount of motion. The term by itself doesn’t tell you why that joint is hypermobile. Someone who is not hypermobile genetically can still have an SI joint that becomes functionally hypermobile after an injury.
That’s why I believe it’s so empowering to teach my readers about the terminology involved here. Translated from the Latin roots, hypermobile means “too much motion.” The word alone doesn’t say whether it’s a result of one injury, or a genetic predisposition.
You may have encountered medical professionals who’ve told you your SI joints are hypermobile, but they haven’t clarified whether your symptoms are caused by the genetic condition, an injury, or both. When you begin to understand this terminology, you can begin to take more control over your own health.
What are some signs and symptoms that you might be genetically hypermobile?
Hypermobility disorders run along a spectrum. Essentially, hypermobility isn’t just one disorder, where you either have it or you don’t.
Instead, there are range of different genes that can be affected. Some people will be at the more severe end of this spectrum, with symptoms that have been noticeable from childhood. Other people, such as myself, may be on the more moderate to mild end of the spectrum, and may not even realize that they’re hypermobile until later in life, following an injury.
However, here are some common signs of hypermobility to look out for:
- Flat feet
- “Double-jointed”– people with connective tissue disorders are likely to have been those kids growing up who could do all kinds of crazy tricks bending their fingers and hands
- Chronic, widespread pain
- A history of joint dislocations (shoulder, hip, etc).
- Frequent injuries, such as ankle sprains
There are other body-wide symptoms which may also be part of hypermobility disorders, such as fatigue, light-headedness, and digestive issues, to name a few.
What are the next steps to take?
If you think you might have a hypermobility condition, a geneticist is the type of specialist to see for a diagnosis. They can do an examination of your joints, as well as look at your personal and family medical history.
And, if you’d like to learn more about my personal experience meeting with a geneticist, you can check out this post .
Hypermobility and the SI joint
When you know you’re genetically hypermobile (or suspect that you might be) it has some pretty important implications for your treatment.
The principles I discuss for SI joint healing– a balancing act between letting your ligaments rest, while finding ways to strengthen the muscles around them that are as gentle as possible– are a great way forward for anyone, but even more so for hypermobile people.
As I’ve mentioned previously, the first person who was able to successfully identify my SI joint issue and realign my joints was a chiropractor, who I ended up seeing for many years. Those adjustments, while very helpful in the short term, never really changed anything in the long term.
In fact, I believe my chiropractor came to think of me as a difficult patient, as he would tell me, in a frustrated voice, that he had other people with SI joint issues who didn’t need to be adjusted so often.
I ended up discovering through my own experience that the more forceful chiropractic adjustments were actually backfiring, by putting too much stress on the ligaments and destabilizing them. Even though the adjustments helped temporarily to fix my alignment, I always seemed to go back out of alignment right away. Once I switched to using the much more gentle Muscle Energy Technique for self-adjustments, things got a lot better.
Now, I know that this experience is actually fairly common for hypermobile patients– we really are supposed to have the most gentle adjustments possible, because our ligaments really don’t respond well to having a strong force applied. (Thank you, Muldowney Physical Therapy, for validating this for me!).
That’s why it’s so important to have the right plan to move forward.
Now, my philosophy is about helping people discover the right strengthening exercises, stretches, and overall movement patterns which allow you to become more stable while you also get stronger.
I hope this helps!
At the end of the day, we really need more research, as we have really just began to scratch the surface in our understanding of these disorders.
However, I hope this post has given you some useful info, and has helped you to become aware of whether or not hypermobility has played a role in your own story.
Stay tuned for more to come!