Hanging Loose? – Hypermobility

If you’ve ever been part of a sports team, one of the first things your coach had you do as a team was warm up with some stretching. Go to Pre’s Trail or any common running spot in Eugene, and you see the runners stretching. Go to the gym, and you’ll see some people stretching in the back on some yoga mats.  For the majority of people, stretching is usually a great way to get you feeling loosened up and ready to exercise, as long as it’s done correctly. Ever heard of hypermobility?

There are some people who, despite already being really mobile, just always feel tight. They stretch, and stretch, and stretch, and feel tight 5 minutes after they just stretched. These are usually the same people who have had frequent joint dislocations and just never feel very stable around their joints. If this sounds familiar, you may have something called hypermobility. This isn’t something that is inherently bad, and it’s actually a fairly common issue. Hypermobility occurs along a spectrum. This means a person may have one joint that is a little more loose than the average person, or every joint in your body is so flexible you feel like the human version of Gumby, or somewhere in between those.

There are various conditions associated with hypermobility, one of which is known as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS can be identified by laxity of the connective tissues of the body, meaning the stuff that supports your major organs and keeps your body held together. This can lead to a huge variety of symptoms outside of hypermobility. Some examples include poor balance, urinary incontinence, and a variety of bowel dysfunctions including irritable bowel syndrome. EDS is usually pretty difficult to deal with as a patient because of the different symptoms that tend to present across various systems. In terms of pain, balance, and controlling mobility, there’s no better place for someone with these symptoms to start than physical therapy. That said, it’s important that you find a primary care physician that understands EDS and who can refer you to specialists for any of the other issues that may arise.

One of the biggest issues to the musculoskeletal system that arises as a result of EDS is a decrease in what is known as proprioception, which is the ability for your body to determine where it is.  For example, proprioception tells you if your knee is bent or straight without having to look. With EDS, this sense is impaired, which may not seem to be all that relevant at first. When you consider that EDS tends to lead to increased range of motion in the joints, you have someone who has a lot of motion AND a lack of sensation of where those joints are positioned. This can lead to chronic sprains, strains, or joint subluxations/dislocations, which can certainly be painful and make someone less motivated to remain active. Physical therapy can help improve proprioception so these issues are less common or disappear altogether.

For more information on EDS, check out the Ehlers-Danlos Society at www.ehlers-danlos.com.  If you’re in western Oregon in the Willamette Valley, check out facebook.com/groups/edsmidwillamettevalley, which is a discussion group run by our very own Dr. Daily. The page posts videos regularly with valuable information on how to deal with EDS and hypermobility and can be a great resource to find local help.

Got questions?  Feel limited in what you’re able to do?  The staff at Limitless Physical Therapy in Eugene, OR can show you how to discover your future without limits.

***The above information, including text, images, and all other materials, is provided for educational purposes only, and not as a replacement or supplement to professional medical advice.  Please contact a certified healthcare professional or your primary physician for any personal concerns.

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