If you have hypermobile joints, you are able to extend them easily and painlessly beyond the normal range of motion. Hypermobility of the joints occurs when the tissues holding a joint together—mainly ligaments—are too loose. Often, weak muscles around the joint also contribute to hypermobility.
The joints most commonly affected are the knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers. Hypermobility is a common condition, especially in children, since their connective tissues are not completely developed. According to the Mayo Clinic, a child with hypermobile joints may lose the ability to hyperextend as he or she ages. (Mayo)
Hypermobility of the joints may also be called:
- joint laxity (or hyperlaxity)
- loose joints
- hypermobility syndrome
Most commonly, hypermobile joints appear without any underlying health conditions. This is called benign hypermobility syndrome, since the only symptom is hypermobile joints. It can be caused by:
- bone structure: bone shape or the depth of the joint sockets
- muscle structure: muscle tone or strength
- poor sense of proprioception (the ability to sense how far you are stretching)
- family history: hypermobility is often inherited
Some people with hypermobile joints also develop stiffness or pain in their joints. This is called joint hypermobility syndrome.
In rare cases, hypermobile joints are the result of an underlying medical condition. Conditions that could potentially cause hypermobility include:
- Down syndrome (a developmental disability)
- cleidocranial dysostosis (an inherited bone development disorder)
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (an inherited syndrome affecting elasticity)
- Marfan syndrome (a connective tissue disorder)
- Morquio syndrome (an inherited disorder that affects the metabolism)
Usually, people with hypermobile joints do not have other symptoms, so they do not need treatment for their condition.
However, you should see a doctor if you have:
- pain in the loose joint during or after movement
- sudden changes in the appearance of the joint
- changes in mobility, specifically in the joints
- changes in the functioning of your arms and legs
Hypermobility is often the result of weak joints. If you have this condition, you are more likely to dislocate or injure your joints through sprains, strains, etc.
To decrease your risk of complications, you can try the following:
- do exercises to strengthen the muscles around the joint
- learn what normal range of motion is for each joint in order to avoid hyperextension
- protect your joints during physical activity by using padding or braces
If you have joint hypermobility syndrome, treatment will focus on relieving pain and strengthening the joint. Your doctor may suggest you use prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers, creams, or sprays for your joint pain. He or she may also recommend certain exercises or physical therapy.