Since becoming a Pilates instructor I seem to be treating more and more clients with Joint hypermobility. The bendy types who amaze you by getting into positions that seem impossible to most. Maybe I’m just more aware of Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS) now I know what I'm looking for. Joint hypermobility is very common in the general population, affecting 20-30% of individuals to some degree either in isolated joints or more generalised. It is most common in childhood and adolescence, in females, and in Asian and Afro-Caribbean races.
I recently treated a client in Randwick with JHS and she has recently given birth. She was struggling to cope with day to day tasks and was unaware that her joint laxity was increased when breast feeding. I see this scenario on a weekly basis and have been surprised at the amount of my clients who have the mild signs and symptoms of JHS but have no clue about it.
There are many different forms and causes of connective tissues diseases and JHS falls into this category. JHS has many levels of severity and most of my clients have the milder form of the syndrome but when they piece it together they see a pattern emerging. Ehler-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is one of the connective tissue disorders among the connective tissue spectrum. EDS and JHS are the most common forms of connective tissue disorders.
For example many JHS suffers have fatigue, anxiety and other symptoms that is linked to the syndrome. You may fidget a lot and never seem quite comfortable when resting. Unfortunately they rarely put all these symptoms together. There are many causes for JHS and most people have this condition from birth. So how do you know if you have the JHS? A good start is to take the Beighton test, which assesses all the major joints for laxity in your joints. Most rheumatologists use the more in-depth Brighton Criteria to diagnose JHS.
Recently Professor Rodney Graham, one of the world’s foremost experts on hypermobility, has led the foundation of a new Hypermobility Unit at the Hospital of St John & St Elizabeth in London. The website is also a fantastic resource.
So what can you do about it? From a personal perspective I have seen the best results with a personalised pilates exercise program monitored by a physio who understands JHS and EDS. For more tips on managing JHS and EDS Rosemary Keer and Kathrine Butler have published two excellent academic chapters on Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy (OT) available here.