“Is being hypermobile a bad thing?” is one of the most common questions I get asked by patients on the hypermobile spectrum. The short answer is no… but it’s not necessarily a good thing either.

Look at being hypermobile as a trait, like height, hair colour, eye colour and so on, rather than something we should be afraid of. Some people may just be a little more hypermobile than others but function wonderfully daily and never have any issues. Others can be quite debilitated by hypermobility, most commonly when they have a condition called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

“Well why do some people with hypermobility have more issues” is probably the second most common question I get asked, and this answer is a little more complicated. Think of hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD) as an umbrella term used for a group of disorders that involve joint hypermobility. At the lower end of the scale are people with hypermobile joints but no symptoms at all (yay!), at the other end is a condition known as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which is when all connective tissues in the body are affected. This can affect the heart, arteries, gut function, skin, and more. In the middle of the spectrum are hypermobile people who may just be a little bit more prone to injuries such as rolling their ankles, spraining joints, and having an overactive pelvic floor just to name a few.

So, regarding my second most commonly asked question, some people may have other connective tissues in their body being affected, which causes a range of health issues. Additionally, someone who is hypermobile but very active, with good muscle tone may cope a lot better than someone who has less muscle tone, and therefore less support to their vulnerable joints. There are many other reasons some may be affected more but you might start losing interest if I begin to ramble.

The most common way we diagnose general joint hypermobility is by using a test known as the Beighton Score. This is a combination of five different movements and scored out of 9. Note that some people may score low but still be hypermobile so it is not the only tool we use. As we age, we naturally become less hypermobile in our joints, or surgeries/previous injuries may cause a joint to lose its hypermobile nature. To see an image of the Beighton Score movements click here to refer to this website.

If you are hypermobile, there are some key things to consider in your lifestyle to look after your body.

1. Keep active and strong

A joint has three things that give it stability; the shape of the joint, the muscles surrounding the joint, and the ligaments. In hypermobility, the ligaments aren’t as reliable, so the muscles play an even bigger role in providing stability.

2. Choose your method of exercising carefully

Yoga isn’t recommended for someone with hypermobility and something I always recommend these patients steer clear of. The reason for this is that you will easily be able to get into these fancy yoga poses which make the rest of us look bad! However, most of these poses have you sitting at the end range of motion in your joint which is the most vulnerable place for overstraining or tearing your already overworked muscles. Pilates works incredibly for many people with hypermobility as it focuses a lot more on strength rather than flexibility. It also works a lot on the deep stabilising muscles which is exactly where we want our focus to be.

3. Dynamic stretching

The biggest misconception I see about hypermobility is that they are flexible, but this isn’t always the case. Hypermobility refers to the joints having more mobility than normal, whereas flexibility refers to how well your muscles can lengthen. Because the muscular system is working extra hard in people with hypermobility, they can get tight and no matter how much you try to stretch the quads or calves, they tighten right back up again! I rather recommend dynamic stretching more focused on the fascial system. The best way of doing this is by doing activities like swimming or pilates.

4. Utilise pillows when sleeping

When we sleep our muscular system finally gets a rest which can allow us to lie in awkward, twisted positions for a long period. If you are a side sleeper try placing a pillow between your knees to keep your pelvis neutral, and hugging a pillow to keep your top shoulder from dropping forward. If you are a back sleeper, make sure your pillow isn’t too low and if you have the urge to turn one leg out into a figure 4 position, try placing a pillow under your knees.