One of the keys to empowering people with chronic illness is a health care team that creates a safe space where each person is validated, believed and understood. If you’re struggling with a chronic health issues that have been hard to diagnose, there’s an important question that your doctor should have asked you, but probably hasn’t.
Here it is: “Are you, or were you ever, double-jointed?”. A lot of my clients with debilitating health issues that have eluded diagnosis, or with an ever-increasing collection of diagnoses that seem unrelated to each other, have hypermobile joints. In many cases I’m the first practitioner who has inquired about hypermobility. And it’s amazing how all the pieces of the puzzle start to connect when we ask this simple yet profound question.
If you’re a hypermobile person with some chronic health concerns, you have an excellent chance of reclaiming your vitality through a combination of nutritional therapy, physical therapy and emotional therapy.
Please note that none of the information covered in this article should be construed as diagnostic. Additionally, there is a very broad hypermobility spectrum along which the symptoms covered in this article may occur. So read this information as an empowering catalyst for taking steps that will empower you with greater confidence, awareness and understanding of your body and your health.
Hypermobility May be Asymptomatic
Some people with hypermobile joints remain perfectly healthy all their lives. If this is your case, that’s wonderful! However, it’s wise to take measures to prevent hypermobile joints from becoming unstable over time. The musculoskeletal problems that many hypermobile people experience don’t stem for hypermobile joints per se, but from joints that have become unstable over time via injury, micro-trauma and repetitive motion.
If you have asymptomatic hypermobility, maintain good conditioning through regular exercise, choosing a program that is well-matched to your situation. Regular exercise promotes good muscle tone and structural stability, thus reducing the likelihood of over-extension and injury. If you tend to be awkward or clumsy, you can work on proprioception and balance with a good physical therapist.
When Hypermobility is Symptomatic
When hyper-extensible joints come alongside symptoms across different body systems, there may be a deeper problem with the connective tissue. Nonetheless, because most physicians don’t realize that hypermobility can be correlated with health problems, they don’t ask their patients about it and don’t assess for it during a physical exam, missing a valuable opportunity to connect the dots in complex health cases.
While there are many potential reasons for hypermobility, my focus here is on symptomatic hypermobility associated with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (HSD). These conditions affect the integrity of connective tissue throughout the body, with a variable symptom picture that may include joint hypermobility, ligament laxity, tight muscles, easy injury, bleeding and bruising, slow healing, fragile skin and blood vessels, digestive difficulties, cardiovascular problems, scoliosis, and more.
HSD and hEDS tend to run in families and often occur alongside comorbidities including POTS, dysautonomia, dyspraxia, migraines, Chiari malformation and mast cell activation disorders. Recent research has focused on the connection between hEDS and HSD and autism, an area that definitely warrants a deeper look.
What’s the Best Approach for hEDS and HSD?
Just like everyone else, hypermobile people are unique. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for the complex constellation of symptoms these clients experience. In fact, the best support is individual and client-centered. That being said, most hypermobile people thrive on a customized combination of physical therapy, nutritional therapy and emotional therapy (in whatever combination is right for them, and adjusted over time to adjust for changing needs). Each of the three areas cross-pollinates powerfully with the other two, so the work we do in each realm provides incredible leverage in the healing journey!
Through the proper guidance, you can build a foundation that will help you feel whole, radiant and strong!