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Hypermobility

If you couldn’t make our June Network Meeting at Huntingdon this month, we wanted to share information from our mini-workshop on hypermobility, run by Cambridgeshire Community Health Services. Here’s what we learned from Stevie Parker, who leads the children’s physiotherapy team for Hunts.

What is Hypermobility?

Joint hypermobility is when some or all of the joints have more flexibility than average. Some people refer to it as being “double jointed” or “loose jointed”. It can affect different joints such as the elbow, wrist, fingers and thumbs that bend backwards, legs and feet.  And can range in severity. Hypermobility is more common in children where one or both of their parents were also hypermobile (inherited). Hypermobility can resolve itself on its own. Children with hypermobility need to develop good muscle strength, control and stamina to help control the extra movement of the joints. When a child has low muscle tone, their joints can become hypermobile due to reduced muscle control.

There are two types of hypermobility

  • Benign – bendy with no symptoms 
  • Symptomatic – bendy with pain

What difficulties does it cause?

In most people, hypermobile joints don’t cause any problems. It is important to remember that in conjunction with strong muscles, hypermobile joints can be of great benefit e.g. the ability to stretch fingers widely when playing the piano. Some of the best sports people, gymnasts, dancers and musicians-have-hypermobile-joints.  However in some  children, it can lead to painful joints and stiff muscles. The pain is related to strength and endurance, not the hypermobility itself, and this can affect co-ordination. 

Children’s bones and joints need some degree of “bend” to because they fall over so much. 

Some are truly hypermobile, some are just normal but with some variations. 

Core strength can affect hypermobile hands. A strong core is vital and helps bodies work at their best. 

Top Tips

  • If they are listening or watching TV, think about getting them to try sitting in a better position for their body. 
  • If a child is concentrating on trying to sit still and straight, try not to ask them to do much else. If they need to concentrate to do this, let them sit in a position that’s most comfortable for them.

 

Ideas to improve co-ordination and strength

  • Balance bikes. These bikes have no pedals, gears, or a chain. Your children push themselves along with their feet, learning balance
  • Regular exercise such as swimming, which supports the weight of your body
  • Targeted exercises. Read and download some example sheets from the Cambridgeshire Community Services website