Joint hypermobility is when a joint can move past the normal range. People used to call this being "double jointed". The extra movement is due to extra loose ligaments around the joint. Ligaments are tough bands of connective tissue that link two bones together at a joint. They strengthen the joint and limit its movement in certain directions. People with hypermobile joints have ligaments which are easily stretched.
Having extra loose joints is very common, especially amongst women. Hyperlaxity is seen in 10% of the Western population and up to 25% in other populations. Some people are only extra flexible in some of their joints, but someone with true hypermobility will be extra mobile at numerous joints.
For many people, joint hypermobility does not cause any problems. Being hypermobile can actually be an advantage for some people such as dancers and
gymnasts, however hypermobility can be a problem for some people as it may lead to muscle pain and fatigue due to the muscles having to work harder to compensate for the lack of joint stability. Some people with hypermobility are prone to dislocations. Hypermobility can also lead to the development of osteoarthritis in the affected joints earlier in life than usual.
If hypermobility is causing problems such as painful joints and muscles, clicking joints, frequent dislocations or injuries such as sprains and is associated with digestive problems and thin stretchy skin, it may be part of a hereditary disorder known as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS is a group of uncommon conditions that affect connective tissues. There are four main types of EDS. Hypermobile EDS, is a form of the condition many experts now consider to be the same thing as Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS).
How can Hand Therapy Help Hypermobility?
If hypermobility in your hands is causing pain or difficulty performing daily tasks, a hand therapist may fit you with a splint to stabilise the painful joint/s. Numerous options are available including custom-made thermoplastic splints and silver ring splints. Hand Therapists can also provide exercises to improve joint stability and strength and offer pain relieving treatments such as dry needling, therapeutic ultrasound and inter X therapy.